Dalai Lama threatens to resign if situation in Tibet worsens

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, urges Tibetans to stop the violence.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has vowed to step down from his position if things "get out of control" in Tibet, where violent demonstrations against China have killed anywhere from 13 to 100 people.

At a news conference in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama said he was opposed to the use of violence against China's rule. "Violence is almost suicide," he said. "Even if 1,000 Tibetans sacrifice their lives, it will not help." However, he acknowledges that many radical Tibetans have criticized his policy of non-violence, and says that his only option is to "completely resign" if the bloodshed continues.

After making these statements, his secretary Tenzin Taklha said it would be impossible for him to resign as Tibet's spiritual leader, and that he will only be able to resign as their political leader. "If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence, he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence," Taklha said. "He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always be the Dalai Lama."

The Dalai Lama responded to accusations made by China's premier, Wen Jiabao, who said there was evidence proving that the riots were "organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique". The Dalai Lama asked Chinese officials to come to his headquarters in Dharamsala and investigate. "Check our various offices," he said. "They can examine my pulse, my urine, my stool, everything."

He also suggested that the Chinese themselves may have orchestrated the protests as a way to discredit him. "It's possible some Chinese agents are involved there," the Dalai Lama said. "Sometimes totalitarian regimes are very clever, so it is important to investigate."

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier, says the protests were orchestrated by the "Dalai clique".

Wen Jiabao's remarks came at an annual news conference at the end of China's national legislative session. He said the intent of the riots was to "undermine the Beijing Olympic Games" and "serve their hidden agenda". He added, "This has all the more revealed that the consistent claims made by the Dalai clique that they pursue not independence but peaceful dialogue are nothing but lies."

Wen said China will be open to negotiation with the Dalai Lama if he recognizes Tibet and Taiwan as "inalienable parts of the Chinese territory". The Dalai Lama responded by inviting Wen to speak with him. "If the Chinese side ... accepts the reality and addresses the Tibetan problem realistically, within a few hours we can solve this problem," he said.

If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence, he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence.

—Tenzin Taklha

Although China suspects the Dalai Lama and his followers wish to break away from Chinese control, Tenzin Gyatso said that "independence is out of the question" and instead advocated greater autonomy within China. "We should not develop anti-Chinese feelings," he said. "We must live together side by side."

He said he plans to meet with Tibetan exiles who are currently marching from India to Lhasa, as he believes their ambitions to be futile. "Will you get independence? What's the use?" he asked, calling for them to stop at the border.

Meanwhile, China continued with efforts to arrest those involved in the Lhasa demonstrations, after a midnight deadline for protesters to turn themselves in passed without any apparent surrenders. Witnesses reported 4 army trucks carrying off dozens of handcuffed prisoners. Urgen Tenzin, executive director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, said about 600 Tibetans were arrested Monday.

Police were seen patrolling the streets of Lhasa, carrying batons or rifles and checking for identification papers. "When the fighting began, you saw no Chinese," said John Kenwood, a Canadian tourist. "Now you see no Tibetans on the streets. The young Tibetans are probably hiding."

The protests, which began in Lhasa, have since spread to neighboring provinces. In Aba, Sichuan, one witness reported 17 deaths. "Earlier today, the whole town was teeming with police and soldiers," he said. "All the shops have been closed. There are no arrests that I know of ... People are anticipating that something big is going to happen." Elsewhere in Sichuan, thousands of Tibetans turned out in the streets of Seda, according to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

The international community has repeatedly urged China to use restraint in dealing with protesters, and to start talks with the Dalai Lama. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday, "We have really urged the Chinese over several years to find a way to talk with the Dalai Lama, who is a figure of authority, who is not a separatist, and to find a way to engage him and bring his moral weight to a more sustainable and better solution of the Tibet issue."