China invokes Panchen Lama as Tibetan protests spread
16 March 2008
Beijing (dpa) – China on Sunday issued a statement condemning rioting in Lhasa from its state-appointed Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Panchen Lama, as witnesses said Tibetan independence protests that left dozens dead in Lhasa had spread to more monastery towns.
"The rioters’ acts not only harmed the interests of the nation and the people, but also violated the aims of Buddhism," the government’s official Xinhua news agency quoted the Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, as saying.
China’s 18-year-old 11th Panchen Lama was chosen in 1995 by state-sponsored Tibetan Buddhist leaders.
A rival 11th Panchen Lama, chosen and recognized by supporters of the exiled Dalai Lama, has reportedly been held under virtual house arrest in China since he was 6 years old.
An estimated 3,000 Tibetan protesters in the town of Xiahe, near Labrang monastery in China’s Gansu province, on Saturday shouted statements in support of the Dalai Lama and called for the release of the Panchen Lama, US-based Radio Free Asia reported.
Monks and lay Tibetans marched along the main street in the town, attacking shops, banks and other buildings, a nurse at the Xiahe Poeple’s Hospital told Deutsch Presse-Agentur by telephone.
"They smashed all the glass in the windows," the nurse said.
Nobody was admitted to the hospital with injuries following Saturday’s protest, she said.
"Today there are police patrolling the streets," she said. "Only a few shops and restaurants are open."
The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said paramilitary police fired tear gas and warning shots into the air to disperse the protestors in Xiahe.
Some of the monks and lay Tibetans who joined the rally were beaten or arrested by police, the centre said.
"It is true that the police used tear gas, but I didn’t hear any shots," another Xiahe resident told dpa.
More protests were reported in Lithang, Sershul and Ngaba towns in a traditional Tibetan area of Kham now under China’s Sichuan province, reports said.
Monks also protested at Samye monastery, south of Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous region, while troops with tanks and armoured personnel carriers imposed virtual marital law in Lhasa, Radio Free Asia said.
Chinese authorities on Saturday demanded that Tibetan rioters in Lhasa surrender to police or face more serious punishment for the violence that reportedly claimed dozens of lives following five days of escalating pro-independence protests.
State media said at least 10 people died in fires in Lhasa on Friday, while the Tibetan government in exile, based in the Indian city of Dharamsala, said it had confirmed 30 deaths and had unconfirmed reports of more than 100 other deaths in Lhasa.
The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s highest leader, fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against the occupation of Tibet by Chinese troops since 1951.
The current protests began on Monday to mark the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising.
The reincarnate Panchen Lama is often considered second in importance to the Dalai Lama by Tibetan Buddhists.
[Copyright dpa 2008]