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Dalai Lama To Resign If Violence Worsens

March 18, 2008

From CNN – The Dalai Lama will step down as leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile if violence by protesters in the region worsens, the exiled spiritual leader said Tuesday as China’s premier blamed his supporters for the growing unrest.

“If things become out of control then my only option is to completely resign,” the Dalai Lama told a news conference in Dharamsala, India, The Associated Press reported.

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama later clarified that he was referring to his political role as Tibetan leader-in-exile, rather than his spiritual role, AP said.

“If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence,” Tenzin Takhla told reporters.

“He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always be the Dalai Lama.”

Earlier, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had blamed supporters of the Dalai Lama for the wave of deadly violence which exploded in Tibet on Friday.

He also said Chinese forces exercised restraint in confronting unrest there.

“There is ample fact and we also have plenty of evidence proving that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique,” Wen said in a televised news conference.

The precise number of victims — and which side they were on — remained in dispute, but James Miles, a reporter for The Economist, said it appeared that the dead included Tibetans as well as Han Chinese who live and operate businesses in Tibet.

Additional clashes have been reported in other parts of China with significant ethnic Tibetan populations.

Some Tibetans have long advocated independence for Tibet, which is formally an autonomous region of China. The Dalai Lama stopped short of a call for independence this week but argued that the Chinese treat Tibetans as second-class citizens in their own land. He said Tibetans need a full and genuine autonomy to protect their cultural heritage.

The Tibetan government-in-exile said at least 80 people were killed by police in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, while local authorities placed the number far lower.

“There are 13 common people who died in the beating, burning and smashing in the riots,” said Champa Phuntsok, the head of Tibet’s regional government.

“They died of fire, asphyxiation and beating. Some of them were set on fire by rioters and died in the burning.”

The Dalai Lama accused China on Monday of “cultural genocide” in Tibet — something Wen dismissed.

“Those claims that the Chinese government is engaged in so-called cultural genocide are lies,” he said, pledging that Beijing will continue to “protect the culture … in Tibet.”

“We will continue to help Tibet improve the livelihood of people of all ethnic groups,” Wen said. “We will never waver in this position.”

Washington has encouraged China’s leaders to reach out to the Dalai Lama.

“We have really urged the Chinese over several years to find a way to talk with the Dalai Lama, who is a figure of authority, who is not a separatist, and to find a way to engage him and bring his moral weight to a more sustainable and better solution of the Tibet issue,” Rice said from Moscow on Monday.

The U.S. State Department urged restraint as the Chinese government responds to the Tibetan protesters.

Meanwhile, CNN’s John Vause witnessed the movement of Chinese military convoys near Tibet on Tuesday.

“We saw a convoy of military vehicles heading north on the road to Nwaga County here in Sichuan province,” Vause reported. “That’s where exiled Tibetan groups claim there have been deadly clashes over the last couple of days with more than 30 protesters, including monks, women and children, killed by Chinese security forces.”

There are also claims of violence by Tibetans against ethnic Chinese.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported Monday that rioters set fires at more than 300 locations in Lhasa on Friday, including residences and more than 200 shops. Xinhua also said they smashed and burned dozens of vehicles, attacked schools, banks, hospitals, shops, government offices, utilities and state media offices.

A CNN crew tried to travel to Tibet or Nwaga to investigate the reported clashes, but Chinese security forces turned them back while they were several hundred miles away, Vause reported.

During his news conference, Wen made it clear that government forces would maintain control.

“We are fully capable of maintaining stability and normal public order in Tibet,” he said.

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