Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dalai Lama: China causing 'cultural genocide'

Dalai Lama: China causing 'cultural genocide'
Story Highlights
NEW: Dalai Lama accuses China of "cultural genocide" of Tibetans
Live footage shows Chinese police searching door to door in Lhasa
Tibetans in exile say 80 dead in protests; China says 10

(CNN) -- The Dalai Lama on Sunday called for an international probe of China's treatment of Tibet, which he said is causing "cultural genocide" of his people.

The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet spoke at a news conference Sunday in Dharmsala, India, two days after violent clashes between pro-autonomy demonstrators and Chinese security forces in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

A spokesman for the Tibetan exile government said it has confirmed at least 80 deaths in Friday's violence and that protests were continuing outside the capital on Sunday, further undermining China's hopes of a smooth run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Tibet Watch, a group based in Daramsala, India, told CNN that 34 people have died in the Nwaga County area of Sichuan province in western China.

The dead include women and children, the group said in an e-mail, adding they were killed by Chinese police attempting to stop the protests.

Eight bodies were brought to the Nagaba Kirti monastery, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamsala told CNN. Of the eight, two are the bodies of monks, the center said.

Another protest took place in Machu County in northwestern China, the group said. It was started by some Tibetan students distributing fliers.

They were later joined by monks and laypeople. During the demonstration, several shops and a security headquarters were burned, Tibet Watch said. An estimated 2,000 Tibetans were using firecrackers in the streets, the group said.

Rare live video broadcasts from Lhasa Sunday showed dozens of Chinese police searching a section of the capital, near the palace where the Dalai Lama lived before going into exile 49 years ago.

The Dalai Lama said China, as the world's most populous nation, deserves to host the Olympics but it must look seriously at repairing its human rights record "in order to be a good host."

He laughed at suggestions that the exile government was fueling the anti-Chinese protests, saying it was the natural result of deep resentment caused by China's treatment of Tibetans as second class citizens in their own land.

The Dalai Lama -- who fled his homeland 29 years ago after a failed uprising, said Tibet's "ancient cultural heritage" is threatened with extinction by China.

He said the officials in the Chinese government's local administration in Tibet were "very, very negative" toward the native Tibetans, which prevents development of a "harmonious society."

Tibet, he said, is seeking autonomy necessary to safeguard its heritage.

"We are not seeking separation," he said. In fact, he said, Tibet can enjoy modernization through its connection to China.

China was using force to gain stability and peace, but it would always be superficial, he said.

True harmony and unity must come from the heart, the Dalai Lama said.

Although Chinese authorities are keeping a tight control over communications out of Tibet in recent days, the world got a rare live glimpse Sunday inside the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

Video provided live by CNN affiliate Hong Kong Cable showed armed Chinese police, dressed in riot gear, searching door to door through the Tai Yan Dao section of Lhasa -- near the Potala Palace. Watch police conduct searches. »

There was no sign of violence between the police or residents.

CNN International's live rebroadcast of the video was not blacked out by the Chinese government to viewers in that country. The government sometimes exercises its power to censor CNN's broadcast of stories sensitive to China by interrupting the broadcast as it is fed into the country.

The Hong Kong Cable camera appeared to be pointed out a window above the area being patrolled.

A spokesman for the Tibetan government in exile told CNN Sunday it had confirmed from "reliable sources" inside Tibet that at least 80 people were killed during protests Friday in Lhasa. Many others were shot to death by police in other areas, but the numbers have not been confirmed, an exile spokesman said.

The exile government said Chinese authorities had effectively imposed martial law, although it has not been officially declared. Schools, shops and businesses have been closed, it said.

Home telephones and cell phones have been cut off and the movement of people is restricted in many parts of Tibet, it said.

"Monasteries have been completely sealed off by [the military] and remain under extremely strict surveillance," the exiles said. "Monks are being followed even as they try to move within the compounds of the monastery."

Still, there were protests going on outside the Tibetan capital, the exiles said.

More than 200 people protested in Nyangden -- near the Sera Monastery north of Lhasa -- Sunday, the exiles said.

Police used tear gas against demonstrators who took to the streets of Kama Kusang, east of Lhasa, on Sunday, they said.

The exile spokesman also said there were major protests at the Labrang Tashikyil Monastery and at least four people were taken into custody by Chinese soldiers.

Xinhua, China's official news agency, quoted police in Tibet giving protesters a deadline of midnight Monday "to stop their criminal activities and offering leniency to those who surrender themselves."

"Those who surrender and provide information on other lawbreakers will be exempt from punishment," Xinhua reported the police notice said.

Tibet is one of two provinces in China, along with Xinjiang, where the Chinese government places restrictions on reporters' access. Government permission is required for foreign media to enter Tibet and Xinjiang, and CNN has not received permission to go in.

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