Crackdown in Tibet, hundreds of monks arrested and imprisoned in monasteries
by Nirmala Carvalho
On the anniversary of protests in March 2008 (the army fired on the crowd, hundreds of deaths, Tibet closed to visitors and the media), the Chinese authorities have introduced new security measures and enhanced controls. Tibetan Prime Minister in exile: we will not lose hope, we will continue our non-violent protest.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - A new crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet with hundreds of arrests and tightening of already stringent security measures in view the anniversary of protests that erupted in Lhasa on 10 March 2008. In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile after the Chinese authorities have made clear that they will choose the new Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reports that since 2 March, the beginning of this new "safety campaign", around 500 Tibetans were arrested in Lhasa City and there is strict monitoring of the capital’s 3 main monasteries (Drepung, Gaden and Sera) prohibiting monks to leave without a special permit from the authorities.

From 1 March a new "security corps" was also set up that will work with the police "to maintain social order through inspection and detention of suspects and arrests of whoever is devoid of the 3 documents required: ID card, residence registration (hukou in Chinese) and temporary permission to stay "suspected cases will be reported to the police.  

This will create a capillary system of control for any individual who is in Lhasa.

The TCHRD reports that basic rights are being violated, such as freedom of movement, and the aim is to actually intimidate the population, so as to prevent any form of dissent and commemoration in view of the 2nd anniversary of street protests in March 2008, bloodily quashed by the army, which were followed by hundreds, perhaps thousands of arrests and convictions to years in prison.

Professor Rinpoche tells AsiaNews that "we have been in exile for 51 years [after the Dalai Lama and closest followers had to flee abroad in fear of Chinese retaliation for an attempt to regain Tibet's independence] but the Tibetan people despite much suffering, does not use violence to support their cause. Despite the repressive measures and provocations, our people continue to protest in a non-violent way in Tibet and the world".

The Prime Minister believes the support of the international community is essential in this situation, especially regarding the success of the ongoing negotiations with China.  They "know the sufferings of the Tibetan people, most of the world leaders sympathise with the Tibetan cause. Thanks to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spirituality and culture are known around the world. This is aso why I do not lose hope".

The culture of non-violence is so strong among the Tibetans that although many young Tibetans are critical of the negotiations with Beijing preached by the government in exile, however, "there were no violent actions. At most, the young Tibetans staged demonstrations in protest, but there were no incidents. For example, the group Tibetan Youth Congress uses non-violent means of protest, even if  they disagree with the Dalai Lama's policy towards Beijing. "

The new problem is Beijing’s claim to choosing a new Dalai Lama. For the Tibetan religion, the Dalai Lama, as a reincarnation of Buddha, is recognised only through the observance of intricate religious rituals. But in recent days, the governor of the Autonomous Region of Tibet, Padma Choling, said that "there is no need to discuss the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama" thus showing that the new god-king of Tibet will be chosen by the political authorities.

Rinpoche has a cautious approach to the subject and says only that "we must not take a position on the simple Chinese propaganda. Let the Chinese Communist Party talk, we have Tibetan hearts".

Regarding relations with the Chinese people, Rinpoche stresses that "we express gratitude to the people of China, who have given great support to the Tibetan cause. Chinese intellectuals and writers are sympathetic to our cause".