March 19, 2008 in Nation/World

Dalai Lama threatens to quit if violence continues

Rama Lakshmi Washington Post
 
Associated Press photo

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama speaks to the media in Dharmsala, India, on TuesdayAssociated Press
(Full-size photo)

DHARMSALA, India – Reacting to a week of sometimes bloody protests in Tibet, the Dalai Lama said Tuesday that he would resign as the spiritual head of the Tibetan government-in-exile if the violence went out of control. At the same time, the revered religious figure vehemently denied Chinese accusations that he was organizing the riots.

“If things become out of control, then my only option is to completely resign,” the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Laureate and exiled leader of millions of Tibetans around the world, told reporters. As he spoke, the narrow and winding streets of this Himalayan town were filled with hundreds of angry youths, monks and nuns, marching and chanting “Long Live Dalai Lama.”

The prime minister of the government-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, quickly clarified and sought to underplay his leader’s statement. “I don’t think he has said those words without any qualification or context. The Dalai Lama has always said, over and over again, that if the Tibetan people resort to violence, he would not be able to lead the people and be their spiritual leader,” Rinpoche said at a news conference. He said that “the Tibetan people’s commitment to nonviolence remains, and there is no question of his resignation.”

The Dalai Lama reacted angrily to the statements of the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, who blamed him for engineering riots in Tibet that have left scores of people dead. Wen accused the Dalai Lama and his followers of trying to sabotage the Olympic Games in Beijing this August.

Denying the blame, the Tibetan leader who fled China for India in 1959 said that he was open to scrutiny by any international body.

“If you want to start investigating from here, you are most welcome. Check our various offices,” he said with characteristic dry humor. “They can examine my pulse, my urine, my stool, everything.”

Meanwhile, the streets of Dharmsala resounded all day with the steady chant of marchers’ slogans. Maroon-robed monks and nuns carried placards saying “Stop Killing Tibetans” and chanted Buddhist prayers. About 500 young students jammed the alleyways, holding up recent photographs of the rioting in Tibet and shouting, “We want justice,” and “We want freedom.” About 50 Tibetans who are staging a hunger strike sat under a tent outside the Dalai Lama’s temple.

The parliament of Tibet’s government-in-exile has set three objectives for the protests in India: ending alleged Chinese atrocities against Tibetans, getting doctors to the injured and the sick, and obtaining the immediate release of all political prisoners.


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