In this March 28, 2008 file photo, a Tibetan woman in exile enacts a scene of oppression by Chinese authorities during recent crackdowns on Tibet, at a protest rally in Bangalore, India.
Tibet’s people are enduring the worst period of repression at the hands of China’s regime since the Cultural Revolution more than three decades ago, according to the Dalai Lama’s envoy in Europe.
By David Blair, Diplomatic Editor
Kelsang Gyaltsen told the Daily Telegraph that China’s security forces have mounted a renewed crackdown since the riots which swept Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, in March.
As well as compelling Tibetans to undergo “patriotic re-education”, which includes forced denunciations of the Dalai Lama, the authorities have excluded all foreign journalists and diplomats from the Himalayan region.
“Tibetans feel the whole region is like a giant prison. Nobody can enter and little information comes out,” said Mr Kelsang. “There is the re-emergence of an atmosphere of angst and fear just as it was in the Cultural Revolution days.”
The riots in March and the subsequent crackdown by the authorities claimed 218 lives, according to Mr Kelsang. He added that another 1,290 people have been wounded and 6,705 arrested, with many suffering torture.
Tibet’s last outbreak of sustained unrest was in the late 1980s, culminating in serious riots in 1989. But Mr Kelsang said: “The numbers of people arrested, the numbers injured and the numbers killed are higher in 2008 than it was in the late 80s.”
Only the repression of the Cultural Revolution, which ended with Mao Tse-tung’s death in 1976, was worse than today’s conditions. “That is how the Tibetan people feel,” he said.
China has refused to meet the Dalai Lama, but Beijing has conducted seven rounds of talks with his representatives since 2002. Mr Kelsang took part in the last meeting in Beijing in July. But he said that no progress had been achieved.
China says that Tibet has been part of the “motherland” for centuries and points to the region’s rapid economic development, symbolised by the new railway to Lhasa. Beijing says that the Dalai Lama does not represent Tibet’s six million people, who have been “liberated” from the obscurantist rule of Buddhist monks.
But Mr Kelsang pointed out that the Dalai Lama seeks “autonomy” for Tibet, not independence or separation. While the government’s “hardline” stance remains unchanged, China’s intelligentsia has a new view of Tibet, he said.
“The Chinese perception of Tibet has changed dramatically in a very positive way. Twenty years ago, people saw Tibet as undeveloped, superstitious, primitive, backward and so on. Now this has changed, especially among the educated,” said Mr Kelsang.