Soldiers disguised as monks: Dalai Lama

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 29, 2008 14:43 hrs

New Delhi: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Saturday blamed the violence in his homeland, which has claimed several lives, on Chinese soldiers who he said had been disguised as Buddhist monks.

But he maintained that he remained committed to seeking "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet through his "middle way" that eschews violence and separation.

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In his most serious allegation against Beijing since unrest gripped Lhasa and other places this month, the Dalai Lama said that China had disguised its troops as monks to give the impression that Tibetans were instigating the riots.

"In one picture we see a (monk) holding a sword, but it is not a traditional Tibetan sword. We know that a few hundred soldiers have been dressed like monks," said the Dalai Lama, who has been living in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Massive protests in Tibet followed by a crackdown by China have sparked protests by Tibetans in several countries including India.

Asserting that he was not anti-China, the Dalai Lama told reporters here that the policy of the Chinese government was undermining Tibetan culture. "There is evidence that Chinese people in Tibet are increasing month by month."

He said he wanted "meaningful autonomy" in Tibet. "The whole world knows that we are not seeking independence, only China does not seem to know."

The Dalai Lama joined religious leaders of several faiths at the memorial of Mahatama Gandhi here to pray for those killed in the unrest in Tibet since March 10 when trouble first erupted.

Chinese authorities say over 20 people have been killed the violence. The Dalai Lama supporters say at least 140 have died.

The Tibetan leader told reporters later that he had come to New Delhi from his base in the hill town of Dharamsala to take a course on Buddhist teaching and meditation but that his mind was distracted after the Lhasa violence.

"Since March 10, I am having the same experience that I had in 1959 (the year he fled to India)," he said.

The Dalai Lama added that the Tibetan definition of "meaningful autonomy" meant the guarantee to preserve the region's unique cultural environment, including the language.

"One party secretary in Tibet said that the biggest source of threat to Tibet is Tibetan Buddhism. How can we...?" he said.

At the same time, the Dalai Lama said that Tibet would benefit if it were to be part of China. "After all, spirituality alone cannot fill your stomach."

He said he was "very surprised" over the disruption of a Chinese government-guided press tour of Lhasa by Tibetan monks at Jokhang temple.

The Tibetan leader, regarded as a living god, admitted that there were growing voices in the Tibetan community criticising his "middle way" because it had shown no results so far.

"As time goes by and there is no positive concrete result, criticism is increasing. But we are fully committed to the middle way," he said.

The Dalai Lama, whose government-in-exile is not recognised by any country, felt the Chinese authorities were not able to understand that there were dissenting voices among Tibetans and these were outside his control.

"I do not want to shut them up. They have the right to express. But the Chinese do not understand this as they have no experience with freedom."

He called China a "police state" with a "rule of terror". "It seems like a stable state, but underneath there is a lot of resentment."

Asked if he would return to Tibet before his death, he said: "My followers there (in Tibet) tell me to remain in a free country where I can do something... If I don't return with a certain degree of freedom, then no use."

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