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Foreshadowed by Repression in Tibet : Dalai Lama Finds China Purge Familiar

Times Religion Writer

The bloody suppression and punishment of student protesters in China in recent weeks was foreshadowed by similar events in Tibet, the Dalai Lama said Friday.

“We already experienced this kind of unfortunate tragedy,” the exiled Tibetan religious and political leader told a news conference in Santa Monica.

An official of Tibet’s government in exile charged that as many as 800 prisoners have died through torture since March, when Chinese officials imposed martial law amid protests in Tibet.

‘More Teeth’ in Repression

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“The situation in Tibet is very grim,” said Tashi Wangdi, who has headed the Dalai Lama’s efforts to seek talks with China on human rights violations and on proposals to return a degree of political autonomy to Tibet.

Wangdi charged that the prisons are full in Tibet and that the current martial law has given “more teeth” to a repression lasting nearly 40 years.

Guo Chongli, the Chinese consul for political and press affairs in Los Angeles, responded Friday by calling the claim of torture deaths “groundless.”

“Those very few people who commit crimes against the law are arrested,” Guo said in a telephone interview. "(But) there have been no deaths by torture in prison, absolutely not.”

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Although martial law continues, the Chinese official asserted that “the Tibetan situation has gradually become normal now.” Guo added that his government is “against any political activities by the Dalai (Lama) and his followers abroad. (They) are splitting the motherland and the unity of its nationalities.”

Tenzin Gyatso, whose 54th birthday was celebrated Thursday, was selected as the 14th Dalai Lama when he was only 2. He was called to assume political leadership of the 6 million Tibetans in 1950, the year Chinese troops invaded the Himalayan region. As Chinese soldiers put down an uprising in 1959, the Dalai Lama and a large entourage of Tibetans left the country and established a government in exile at Dharmsala, India.

The Dalai Lama is in Southern California until July 20, principally to conduct intricate Buddhist teaching ceremonies at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

Despite the “hard-line, repressive nature” of the Chinese regime, the Dalai Lama called the arrests and silencing of critics “a temporary setback.”

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“I always believe in human determination, the human spirit, to overcome,” he said.

BUDDHISM IN U.S.--The Dalai Lama’s advice is sought in L.A. Part II, Page 6


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