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Associated Press
Dharmsala, India – The Dalai Lama threatened Tuesday to step down as leader of Tibet’s government in exile if violence committed by Tibetans in his homeland spirals out of control.
The Tibetan spiritual leader also sharply rejected accusations by China that he orchestrated last week’s demonstrations in Tibet – and the violence that ensued.
“I say to China and the Tibetans – don’t commit violence,” he told reporters in the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
While the situation inside Tibet remains unclear, much of the violence late last week appears to have been committed by Tibetans. In the days since then, worries have grown that Chinese troops trying to reassert control over Lhasa were exacting retribution against the Tibetans.
“Whether we like it or not, we have to live together side by side,” said the Dalai Lama, who has long called for Tibetans to have significant autonomy within China. “We must oppose Chinese policy but not the Chinese. Not on a racist basis.”
Though clearly fearful of China’s crackdown – he compared the plight of Tibetans to that of “a young deer in a tiger’s hands” – the Dalai Lama also said he was deeply troubled by Tibetan attacks on ethnic Han Chinese. The Han, China’s majority ethnic group, have been encouraged to settle in Tibet by Beijing and are deeply resented in the region.
He said that “if things become out of control,” his “only option is to completely resign.”
An aide later said that the Dalai Lama meant he would step down as the political leader – not as the supreme religious leader of all Tibetan Buddhists.
But the 72-year-old, who has come to personify his people’s struggle, refused to call on the Tibetans inside Tibet to end peaceful protests. “Only, I express my wish to cool down,” he said.
The Dalai Lama also denied Chinese accusations he was behind the uprising, suggesting that the Chinese themselves may have had a hand in it to discredit him.
“It’s possible some Chinese agents are involved there,” he said. “Sometimes totalitarian regimes are very clever, so it is important to investigate.”
On Tuesday, in China’s highest-level response to the violence, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said, “There is ample fact – and we also have plenty of evidence – proving that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique.”
The Dalai Lama said if China had proof they should present it to the world and open up the region to international organizations.
“If they have the proof we created the problem, the Chinese authorities should proudly show (it), invite world media to go there,” he said.
Chinese officials, he added, were welcome to come to Dharmsala and go through his records. “They can examine my pulse, my urine, my stool, everything.”
The Dalai Lama has led the Tibetan exile community since he fled to India in 1959 in the wake of an abortive uprising against China. His commitment to a nonviolent solution to the Tibetan issue won him the Nobel Peace Prize.
He has since handed some political power to a government elected by the exiles, although he remains the administration’s leader.
While he could give up that role, “he will always be the Dalai Lama,” said Tenzin Taklha, one of his top aides.
“If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence,” Tenzin Taklha said. “He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama.”
As the Tibetan spiritual leader, he was recognized at age 2 as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and enthroned before he turned 4. He assumed full powers at age 15, in the year that troops of Mao Zedong’s newly founded communist republic entered Tibet and crushed its small army.
The Dalai Lama also called on Tibetan exiles to call off their march from India to Lhasa. The march, the second attempt since last week, began Saturday after Indian police arrested the first group of marchers.
“Will you get independence? What’s the use?” he said, adding he feared a confrontation there with Chinese troops.
The recent Lhasa protests, led by monks, began peacefully March 10 on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising. But they grew increasingly violent, culminating Friday with widespread street violence. Chinese officials say 16 people were killed, but the Tibetan government-in-exile says that 80 people died.
The Dalai Lama said the Chinese figures were “definitely distorted.”
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press

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