- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2009

DHARAMSALA, India | Life for Tibetans under Chinese rule has been “hell on earth,” the Dalai Lama said Tuesday, attacking Beijing in a speech to mark 50 years since the failed uprising that forced him into exile.

The unusually harsh rhetoric from the Nobel Peace laureate, who accused the Chinese government of treating his people “like criminals deserving to be put to death,” highlighted the widening gulf between the two sides since last year when violence engulfed the region and talks broke down.

“These 50 years have brought untold suffering to the land and people of Tibet,” the 73-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader told some 2,000 Tibetan exiles gathered to commemorate the 1959 rebellion.

Beijing, which accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to split Tibet from China and fomenting the recent violence, denounced his speech as “lies” and underlined the development it had brought to the vast Himalayan plateau.

The Dalai Lama’s 30-minute speech in Dharamsala, the two-street town perched in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas where he set up his headquarters in exile, was a systematic indictment of Chinese rule in Tibet.



Decades of China’s communist experiments, particularly the violent xenophobic Cultural Revolution, “thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth,” he said, adding that these campaigns led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.

Tibet’s unique religion, culture and language are “nearing extinction,” he said.

It was only the exile of 100,000 Tibetans to India that had allowed them to preserve some remnants of their heritage, he later told reporters.

“Now 50 years past, at least in this planet there is one place where Tibetan Buddhist studies and Tibetan Buddhist culture continues with full freedom,” he said.

Tuesday’s ceremony was a mix of somber prayers and hymns mourning those who died, and the pomp of Tibetan tradition.

The anniversary marked the March 10, 1959, riots inside Tibet against Chinese rule that led to a crackdown and, later that month, the Dalai Lama’s dramatic flight across the Himalayas and into exile.

The Dalai Lama also charged Beijing with overseeing a “brutal crackdown” in Tibet since protests shook the Himalayan region.

Last year, a peaceful commemoration of the 1959 uprising by monks in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa erupted into anti-Chinese rioting four days later and spread to surrounding provinces - the most sustained and violent demonstrations by Tibetans in decades.

On Tuesday, Lhasa was calm but tense, as was the rest of the region. Residents and businesses reported seeing increased patrols of armed police throughout the city. Tibetans and travelers in western China said police stepped up identity checks.

After the Dalai Lama’s speech, thousands of young Tibetans took to the streets of Dharamsala, chanting, “China out!” and “Tibet belongs to Tibetans!”

Another 1,000 protesters marched peacefully in New Delhi, while other protests were held in Nepal; Seoul; New York; London; Berlin; Vienna; Bern, Switzerland; Taiwan; and Canberra, the capital of Australia.

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