Celebrations honoring the Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday were disrupted on Saturday in the Ganzi prefecture in Tibet when Chinese paramilitary forces fired on a crowd of 500 Tibetans, leaving at least six injured.
Host to a spat of self-immolations and an overwhelming security presence, the area of Tawu (or Daofu, in Chinese) is often referred to as a “volatile area.” Associated Press reports that the crowd was commemorating the Dalai Lama’s birthday by scaling a popular hillside, routinely blocked by Chinese authorities, in order “to burn incense and hang prayer flags.” Chinese officials in Ganzi and the Foreign Ministry both told Reuters they were unaware of the shooting, though it was confirmed by the International Campaign for Tibet and other inside sources. The Foreign Ministry went on to accuse the Dalai Lama of using his birthday to promote his separatist agenda.
China’s highest official in charge of religious groups and ethnic minorities vowed, on Tuesday, to take a “clear-cut stand and deepen the struggle against the Dalai clique.” The hardline response seems to be aimed at quelling speculation that China is exploring more progressive policies on the plateau. Reports came in several weeks ago citing discussions about lifting restrictions on displaying images of the Dalai Lama in some areas, an “experiment” in reform that Chinese officials quickly denied, though analysts believe Chinese authorities would want to keep changes quiet when they are being tested in isolated areas. International Campaign for Tibet confirmed that experiments in reform are at least being discussed.
All this comes in the wake of a critique of China’s Tibet policy from the belly of the beast, the influential Central Party School in Beijing. Director of Ethnic Religious Studies Jin Wei said, in an interview with Hong Kong–based Asia Weekly, that Tibet policy is failing and requires reform. She advised that the Chinese government reinitiate dialogue with the Dalai Lama and negotiate with him, thereby recognizing that China’s official treatment of the spiritual leader has alienated Tibetans.
An individual or organization has yet to claim responsibility for the attack on Mahabodhi temple complex and its environs in Bodh Gaya, India, which left two monks injured. (There is, however, no shortage of speculation regarding the perpetrators.) India’s National Investigation Agency has launched a probe, but haven’t identified a motive for the series of low-intensity blasts on Sunday.
Monks have gathered in Thailand and Sri Lanka to demonstrate against the attack and rally for peace. You can watch video footage of the demonstrations (via The Guardian) below.
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