March 31, 2008 / 5:36 AM / 10 years ago

China blasts Dalai Lama as Olympic torch arrives

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has stepped up attacks on the Dalai Lama, blasting him for abusing religion, stirring protests in Tibet and preparing for independence as the Olympic flame arrived in Beijing on Monday under tight security.

A young Indonesian holds a picture of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama during a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta March 31, 2008. REUTERS/Beawiharta

The scorn aimed at Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader indicated Beijing was digging in its heels in the face of mounting pressure from abroad to engage in dialogue with the Nobel Peace Prize winner. That pressure follows more than two weeks of protests and suppression in Tibetan-populated areas of China.

A report by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said the government had evidence the Dalai Lama and his supporters had planned the rash of anti-Chinese unrest across the Himalayan region and nearby areas this month.

The Dalai Lama’s office rejected the claim on Monday and called on China to allow in international investigators.

“The self-proclaimed spiritual leader has obviously forgotten his identity, abused his religion and played too much politics,” Xinhua said, adding he was building a “pro-independence infrastructure”.

Several foreign leaders, including President George W. Bush, have urged Beijing to talk to the Dalai Lama’s envoys to resolve the issue. China has said it would only do so if he rejected independence for Tibet and Taiwan and used his influence to end the ongoing unrest.

In Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, police beat pro-Tibet protesters with sticks on Monday and detained more than 100 people after they tried to storm a Chinese consular office from different directions, police and witnesses said.

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama gestures during a visit to Tsugla Khang temple in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala March 31, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer


Days of peaceful, monk-led marches in Tibet’s capital Lhasa burst into a citywide riot on March 14 that saw Chinese shops thrashed and burned and cars overturned. The government says the violence killed 18 civilians and at least one police officer.

After the Lhasa riot, China ordered tens of thousands of troops into Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas of neighboring provinces to quash further protests.

Slideshow (16 Images)

Rights groups and Tibet activists abroad fear widespread detentions and abuse. China has banned foreign reporters from traveling independently to Tibet and Tibetan-populated parts of western China, making it difficult to verify claims.

Chinese TV and news reports have focused on the Lhasa mob brutality, but have avoided addressing questions about what lay behind the rampage and other protests.

Instead, the government has blamed the Dalai Lama and his supporters for trying to disrupt the Olympics.

Tenzin Taklha, one of the senior aides of the Dalai Lama, said China’s claim it has evidence of the monk’s complicity in the Tibet protests were unfounded.

“Again these are baseless accusations and instead of these we would call for international groups to go into Tibet,” he said. “We will call upon China to allow an international group to go and investigate these claims by the Chinese.”

Many Chinese, taking a cue from the government, have criticized foreign media for anti-China bias. Since March 21, CNN’s Beijing bureau has received upwards of 100 calls and faxes per day, including demands that the correspondents leave China, a staff member said anonymously.

Additional reporting by Lindsay Beck and Ralph Jennings in Beijing and by Bappa Majumdar in New Delhi; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson

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