China's Tibet is a 'hell on earth' says Dalai Lama

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The Independent Online

The Dalai Lama has claimed life in Tibet has become "hell on earth" under Chinese rule, and warned that traditional Tibetan culture has been pushed to the edge of extinction. In one of his most striking and powerful speeches, the Tibetan Buddhist leader marked the 50th anniversary of the 1959 uprising that led to his flight to India by saying China had created "untold suffering and destruction" and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.

However, in a move that will frustrate many activists, the Dalai Lama repeated his demand for meaningful autonomy for Tibet rather than calling for full independence. "[China's policies had] thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth," he told a crowd of several thousand in Dharamsala, the Indian town where the Dalai Lama has lived for the past half-century. "Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear."

Chinese authorities have stepped up security across Tibet in an effort to avoid a repeat of last year's violent demonstrations which triggered a violent response from the government that left many dead. There were reports of several monks being arrested.

Residents of the capital, Lhasa, reported seeing increased patrols of armed police throughout the city, and in neighbouring Sichuan's Ganzi prefecture, where some of the most violent protests broke out last year, rows of riot police and soldiers with machineguns marched through the middle of the town of Kangding.

Activists say that hundreds of people are still missing after last year's demonstrations were suppressed.