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Dalai Lama says he may quit

Tibet's spiritual leader says worse violence there would leave him no choice. China lays the blame at his feet.


March 19, 2008|Ching-Ching Ni and Mark Magnier, Times Staff Writers

BEIJING — The Dalai Lama threatened Tuesday to resign as the leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile if the violence that has erupted in his homeland over the last week spirals out of control.

The spiritual leader of the Himalayan people made the statement on the day China's top leadership lashed out at him, charging that he had orchestrated Tibet's worst anti-China riots in two decades to sabotage this summer's Beijing Olympics.


"Please help stop violence from Chinese side and also from Tibetan side," the Dalai Lama pleaded before reporters in Dharamsala, India, the base of his government. "If things become out of control, then my only option is to completely resign."

Though few believe the man revered by followers as a god-king is prepared step down, or that it is even possible given his title, there is a sense that his advocacy of nonviolence and compromise has run up against a younger generation of Tibetans looking for a new way out of the long-standing impasse with Beijing. A 6-year-old boy chosen by the Dalai Lama as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism disappeared years ago.

"His holiness is not young. Time is running out for Tibet. If China keeps on doing what it's [been] doing for the last 50 years, there is this thinking from the young that maybe his holiness' patience is not the solution," said Dalha Tsering, campaign coordinator for the Tibetan Community in Britain. "That, however, doesn't mean their allegiance is minimizing; all it means is they are frustrated."

Chinese troops seized control of Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama, who fled the region after a failed rebellion against Beijing in 1959, says he is not seeking independence for his homeland but greater autonomy within China for the Tibetan people.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday accused him of hypocrisy but left open the door for dialogue if the Dalai Lama recognized Tibet as part of China and did not support the independence movement in Taiwan, which Beijing maintains is part of China.

"You should not only look at what he says but what he does," said Wen, who maintained that Chinese authorities had reacted with extreme restraint to the riots in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and had long worked to spur the Tibetan economy and support its culture and people.

Critics say China has restricted news coverage of brutal security measures it has used to suppress pro-Tibet demonstrations.

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