03/17/2008, 00.00
TIBET
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Soldiers parade prisoners through Lhasa

Lama Geshe Gedun Tharchin, founder and spiritual director of the Lamrin Institute of Tibetan Culture, tells AsiaNews about the pain of living under foreign rule bent on trampling the local identity. In the Tibetan capital door-to-door searches continue.

Rome (AsiaNews) – “It is not possible to get news from Tibet because of tight censorship. But we have had to put up with this for long time. It is not possible to know exactly how many people have died or wounded in the clashes of the last few days. What must be stressed is that the protest stems from a legitimate demand of a people that does not accept foreign rule but wants to protect its identity,” said Lama Gedun Tharchin Laman. The founder of the Lamrim Institute of Tibetan Culture, who is professor at Rome’s Institute of Oriental and African Studies, spoke to AsiaNews today.

In Lhasa an apparent but unnatural calm has descended upon Lhasa. This morning schools and offices re-opened in the capital as usual, but homes and monasteries are still subject to thorough searches. At midnight (GMT + 8:00) Beijing’s ultimatum will come to end for rebels to surrender. Meanwhile the People’s Liberation Army has paraded handcuffed prisoners, each with a Chinese soldier holding their head down, in the back of trucks.

Internationally, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged “the Chinese [. . .] to find a way to talk with the Dalai Lama,” whilst the Dutch government summoned the Chinese government to remind his government of the importance of respecting human rights. The European Union also expressed its wish to see Beijing and the Dalai Lama renew talks.

For its part the Chinese government stated that the violence is due to “local terrorists.”

Protests began 10 March when hundreds, later thousands, of people began demonstrating in Lhasa and other Tibetan towns and cities to commemorate the bloody crackdown of 1959 by the Communist government against the Tibetan population that was demanding a return to the country’s independence. One consequence was that the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, was forced into exile.

According to the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, the latest episode of repression has resulted in hundreds of dead. For Beijing, only 13 people have died.

“Tibetans have been under Chinese rule for 50 years,” said Lama Geshe, “but I don’t hate the government in Beijing. I live in Italy where I enjoy unbelievable freedom. However, emotionally I am Tibetan. I cannot but share with those who are fighting, trying to save our culture. In 1948 there was not a single Chinese in Tibet; now Tibetans are a minority. Some Tibetans disagree with the Dalai Lama, and demand independence for our land. And yet all it would take is to give the population more freedom.”

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