Dalai Lama laments ‘brutal crackdown’ warns Tibetans are ‘near extinction’

March 10, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has marked the passing of 50 years since his flight from China and exile in India with one of his strongest speeches praising the sacrifices of those killed during last year’s uprising, but warning that Tibetan identity was “nearing extinction.” Tibetans were still treated like criminals in their own country, he said, despite 50 years of international campaigning and fruitless negotiations with Chinese leaders. China has launched a “brutal crackdown” in Tibet since protests shook the Himalayan region last year. This year, layers of police checkpoints confront travelers to ethnically Tibetan areas, and recent visitors to Lhasa have described armed police posted on rooftops.

“These 50 years have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet. Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them,” he told followers in Dharamsala, the Indian home of his government in exile.

“Today, the religion, culture, language and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction; in short, the Tibetan people are regarded like criminals deserving to be put to death,” he said.

The Dalai Lama, who is 73, lamented his exiled government’s successive attempts to negotiate a settlement with Beijing which would allow Tibetans to preserve their unique culture and to live in autonomy within the People’s Republic of China. Negotiations continue to break down because Chinese officials insist Tibetans accept their country has always been a part of China, which he said was not only “inaccurate but also unreasonable. We cannot change the past no matter whether it was good or bad,” he said.

The Communist government in China had imposed the Cultural Revolution on the Tibetans, and more recently, following the brutal suppression of last year’s uprising, had forced them to endure “patriotic re-education.” These measures had “thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth. The immediate result of these campaigns was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans,” he said.

The Dalai Lama who is semi-retired and has had some health scares of late, pledged to continue campaigning for Tibetan freedom, and urged his exiled followers to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”  While his comments were unusually strong for a man known for his deeply pacifist beliefs, he also urged that any change come peacefully and reiterated his support for the “Middle Way,” which calls for significant Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule.


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