China vowed to press ahead with its fight against the Dalai Lama, after an advocacy group reported that security forces opened fire on monks celebrating the Tibetan spiritual leader’s birthday, wounding several of them.
“We must deepen the struggle against the Dalai clique with a clear-cut stand,” said Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Communist Party’s seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, according a report by the official Xinhua News Agency yesterday.
Xinhua reported Yu’s remarks less than a day after the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said two monks were shot in the head and several more were also seriously wounded when security forces opened fire on a crowd July 6 incident in Sichuan province, which neighbors Tibet. Security forces tried to stop the monks from burning incense and making offerings to the Dalai Lama, the group said, citing Tibetan people it didn’t identify.
The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and led the government in exile until two years ago. Chinese officials have stepped up security in areas populated by Tibetans as monks and their supporters have set themselves on fire to protest government policies in the region.
“We are deeply concerned by these reports of indiscriminate shootings,” Tashi Phuntsok, secretary for the department of information and international relations for the Tibetan government in exile, said in a phone interview. Six people were injured in the shootings, he said, speaking from Dharamshala, the north Indian town in the Himalayan foothills where the government in exile is based.
The Dalai Lama has supported autonomy within China for Tibet, eschewing calls for independence by more radical members of the Tibetan community. The spiritual leader’s “Middle Way” runs counter to China’s constitution and the country’s system of regional ethnic autonomy, Xinhua cited Yu as saying during a visit to Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province.
Protests and violence against Chinese rule have flared in recent years in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions. There have been 120 self-immolations by Tibetans in China since Feb. 27, 2009, the International Campaign for Tibet said last month.
Two phone calls to the Sichuan provincial government spokesman’s office rang unanswered yesterday.
Yu said the 78-year-old spiritual leader can improve his relationship with China if he stops activities that try to split the country, Xinhua reported.
The Dalai Lama “isn’t an innocent religious leader, but someone who in the long term divides China, ruins the unity of the community and destroys China’s social stability in the name of religion,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing yesterday.
Hua said she was unaware of reports on the shooting.
— With assistance by Henry Sanderson