Dalai Lama: Tibetans suffering under China

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DHARMSALA, India–Somber prayers and hymns remembered the dead. Monks in ornate yellow headdresses blew giant conches and long brass trumpets to announce the coming of the Dalai Lama. A band playing drums, cymbals and bagpipes added to the din.

DHARMSALA, India–Somber prayers and hymns remembered the dead. Monks in ornate yellow headdresses blew giant conches and long brass trumpets to announce the coming of the Dalai Lama. A band playing drums, cymbals and bagpipes added to the din.

Then, the soft-spoken man of peace delivered an unusually harsh message – a systematic indictment of the Chinese government that forced him to flee Tibet into exile during a failed uprising in 1959.

“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 Tuesday to commemorate the rebellion.

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.

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 Dharmsala, the two-street town perched in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas where he set up his headquarters in exile, warned that Tibet’s unique religion, culture and language are “nearing extinction.”

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.

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.

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In photo: An armed Chinese police officer waves down a car at a checkpoint leading to a street popular with Tibetans in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan province, Wednesday, March 11 , 2009. China pilloried the Dalai Lama on Wednesday and criticized the United States for suggesting Beijing talk to the exiled Tibetan leader, as authorities further tightened security to prevent Tibetan unrest during a volatile anniversary period.

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