March 21, 2008 / 7:38 AM / 12 years ago

Tibet challenges world conscience, U.S. Speaker says

DHARAMSALA, India (Reuters) - House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday Tibet was a challenge to the world’s conscience and called for an international probe to clear the Dalai Lama’s name in the violent protests this month.

Pelosi said the free world will have lost its moral authority to speak about human rights if it did not speak up against Chinese oppression in Tibet.

“The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world,” Pelosi told a gathering of about 2000 Tibetans after meeting the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, the seat of his government-in-exile.

China’s crackdown on anti-government protests in Tibet — which it says were orchestrated by the Dalai Lama — has drawn sharp international criticism and clouded preparations for the Beijing Olympics.

The Tibetan spiritual leader has denied encouraging the violent protests in Tibet, the largest in almost 20 years, and has even offered to resign as Tibetan leader if violence worsens.

Pelosi described the Tibetan leader as the “embodiment of non-violence” and said China’s allegation that he was behind the violent protests did not make sense.

Nonetheless, she called for “an independent, outside investigation” to clear the Dalai Lama’s name.

Hours after Pelosi met the Dalai Lama, about a dozen Tibetan protesters stormed the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, jumping over a spiked fence and then running around the high-security compound. They waved Tibetan flags and held up posters.

“Boycott 2008 Beijing Olympics,” read one poster. Police and embassy staff soon overpowered the slogan-shouting Tibetans. A Reuters photographer said at least 60 protesters were taken away in police vehicles.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says at least 99 protesters had been killed since the demonstrations started in Tibet on March 10.

Pelosi said she was not surprised “about the use of violence on the part of the Chinese government”.

“If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against Chinese oppression and China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world,” Pelosi said.

“Perhaps it is our karma, perhaps it is our fate that we be with you at the time,” she said to a huge round of applause from the crowd.

Pelosi, in India leading a U.S. delegation on climate change talks, walked hand-in-hand with the Dalai Lama after their meeting. The Tibetan leader presented her with an orange ceremonial scarf.

The Dalai Lama espouses a middle path of greater autonomy for Tibet rather than independence, a stance that many Tibetans, particularly the younger generation hungry for complete freedom, do not endorse.

He has said he was willing to speak to Chinese leaders for a solution once the protests died down.

Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Bill Tarrant

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