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Tibetans in India launch drive against China
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Jan 29, 2013

Beijing's Tibet lama choice enters politics: report
Beijing (AFP) Jan 28, 2013 - China's choice as one of the most important figures in the Tibetan religious hierarchy has been given his first political appointment, state media said Monday, aged just 16.

China enthroned Sonam Phuntsok in 2000 as the seventh Reting Rinpoche, a line of figures who have traditionally taken charge between the death of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the identification of his successor.

His selection was seen as an attempt by Beijing to increase its control over reincarnations of Tibetan lamas and to legitimise its rule over the region, with monks at the Reting monastery protesting at the time.

Now, as Tibet is roiled by ethnic tensions, the teenager has become the youngest member of the Tibet Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the China Daily said, and has pledged to uphold "patriotism".

The CPPCC is a nominated advisory body which plays a key role in policy debate in China and officially performs "democratic supervision" of the ruling party.

In an interview with the state-run newspaper following his appointment, the teenager was quoted as saying he would "keep the Reting lineage of patriotism and the love for the religion".

The newspaper listed his interests as learning languages, surfing the Internet and posting on his online blog.

"I have more than 5,000 fans. I talk about Buddhism with people online quite often," he was quoted as saying.

There was no mention of the Dalai Lama in the article and his latest blog post was quoted as saying: "Don't care about who is the leader, but care about who treats the people well."

The China Daily interview ran in a prominent position on page three, at a time when nearly 100 Tibetans have set fire to themselves since 2009 in protest against the Chinese government.

Beijing blames the self-immolations on separatist forces and the Dalai Lama, accusing the Nobel laureate of inciting the acts.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

China rejects that, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing also points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.

The fifth Reting Rinpoche played an important role in identifying the present Dalai Lama, who was enthroned in 1940, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Sonam Phuntsok was enthroned as seventh Reting Rinpoche following the escape of the then 14-year-old Karmapa Lama to the Tibetan exile government headquarters in Dharmasala, India in 1999.

The Karmapa Lama's flight was a major embarrassment for Beijing as he is one of the four most important Tibetan spiritual leaders and recognised by both Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan government-in-exile in India on Tuesday announced plans for a four-day campaign to bring global pressure on China in a bid to end a string of self-immolations in their Himalayan homeland.

Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan parliament in-exile based in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala, said the drive would include rallies and meetings and begin in New Delhi on Wednesday.

"The situation is getting more and more grim," Tsering said at a joint news conference with Lobsang Sangay, who in 2011 took over political duties from revered Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and was named prime minister.

The two leaders said 99 Tibetans had self-immolated between 2009 and January 22 this year in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet.

"Instead of trying to address the main causes as to why self-immolations are taking place, as to why Tibetans are protesting in various other forms, the Chinese government has resorted to a blame game," Sangay said.

"They blame us for the tragedy in Tibet which is absolutely baseless because Tibet has been under China's occupation for the last 50 years," the Harvard-educated scholar said.

Sangay said India, home to tens of thousands of Tibetan exiles "ought to speak out forcefully on Tibet".

The four-day campaign will call for visits to Tibet by UN fact-finding teams and the publication of details of human rights discussions between Beijing and foreign powers, Sangay said.

Sangay said the Tibetan government as well as the parliament, which has been based in Dharamshala since the Dalai Lama fled after a failed uprising in 1959, were determined to highlight "repression of Tibetans in Tibet".

Both the Dalai Lama and the prime minister have appealed to Tibetans not to resort to self-immolation.

"We are against drastic action but we must highlight it (the situation in Tibet) to the international community," Sangay said.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

China rejects that, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing also points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.


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