LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The Dalai Lama said Tuesday that an estimated 4,000 people who were imprisoned during anti-Chinese riots in Tibet last year remain in custody, and he called for an international investigation of the violence.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said he remains encouraged by the growing solidarity and support Chinese people and intellectuals are showing for the Tibetan cause. But he said the situation in the region remains tense, despite having calmed since last year’s unrest and crackdown by the Chinese government.
The anti-Chinese riots erupted in Lhasa in March 2008 and spread across western China. In response, Beijing poured troops into Tibetan areas, kept foreign media and tourists out, purged Buddhist monasteries at the centre of anti-government sentiment. China also intensified its vilification campaign against the Dalai Lama, accusing him of instigating the unrest.
“I’m appealing to the international community go there and thoroughly investigate,” the 74-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate said.
The Chinese government should refrain from using force in dealing with Tibetans, the Dalai Lama said. He also expressed dismay that Tibetans were prohibited from using their own language.
But he said there is increasing awareness in China about the discrimination Tibetans are suffering and the region’s need for autonomy. Even Chinese government officials were breaking from Beijing’s hardline position, he claimed.
“Many Chinese are showing solidarity with us,” the Dalai Lama said in a hockey arena in Lausanne, where he was giving two days of public teachings on Buddhism to up to 6,000 spectators. “Among the Chinese officials, also a number of officials (are) privately showing their concern, their solidarity.”
The Dalai Lama enjoys moral authority in much of the world and has been the leading voice of a nonviolent campaign by Tibetans to seek autonomy from China. Tibet has unsteadily weathered nearly six decades of Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama has been living in exile in India since 1959 and is feared by China, which has called him as a “wolf in monk’s robes” who seeks to split Tibet from the rest of China.
Beijing claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries until Chinese troops invaded in 1950.
The Dalai Lama has sought autonomy for Tibetans, and not independence. He said autonomy seems “hopeless” at the moment, but that he remains “very hopeful” of achieving his goal in the long term, citing over 600 articles he said were published last year by Chinese people in support of the Tibetan cause. He said the number includes articles published on the Internet.