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Associated Press
Beijing – August 3 – Scores of people have been arrested in a traditionally Tibetan area of western China following public calls for the return of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, reports said Friday.
Police and army reinforcements were sent to the town of Lithang in western Sichuan province following the incident Wednesday at an annual horse festival that attracts thousands of people, according to the overseas monitoring group International Campaign for Tibet and the U.S. government-supported Radio Free Asia.
The reports said a local man, Runggye Adak, was detained after he climbed onto a stage erected for Chinese officials, grabbed a microphone and asked the crowd if they wanted the Dalai Lama to return. Hundreds responded with a roaring yes, the reports said.
A crowd later gathered a detention center to appeal for Runggye Adak’s release. Officers fired warning shots to disperse the group.
RFA said about 200 Tibetans were detained following the protest, but gave no indication of whether they were still in custody. International Campaign for Tibet said additional arrests were reported, but gave no figures or estimates.
A woman who answered the telephone at Lithang’s police station confirmed the protest had occurred, but hung up when asked for details.
“Everything is now back to normal,” said the woman, who like most Chinese police officers refused to give her name.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Tibetans remain strongly loyal to the Buddhist leader, despite persistent efforts to demonize him by Chinese authorities.
China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were self-ruled for most of that period.
Reports said Runggye Adak’s outburst came either during or just before Chinese officials spoke about the 80th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, which in 1950 marched through the Lithang area on its way to occupying the entire region.
“If we cannot invite the Dalai Lama home, we will not have freedom of religion and happiness in Tibet,” RFA quoted him as saying, in a report filed from neighboring Nepal, to which many Tibetans flee on their way to the seat of the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.
Runggye Adak, 52, also called for the release of 18-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima, picked by the Dalai Lama in 1995 as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second-highest leader, RFA said. The boy disappeared soon afterward and has reportedly been in Chinese custody since. China says he is living a normal life but had not given details of where he is or what he is doing.
Having rejected the Dalai Lama’s choice, Beijing installed Gyaltsen Norbu, 16, as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995.
The International Campaign for Tibet said calls were also made for the release of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, a senior lama from the area who attracted thousands of followers before authorities sentenced him to life in prison in 2002 for allegedly promoting Tibetan independence and involvement in bombings that killed one person.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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