May 21, 2008 / 11:55 AM / 10 years ago

Tibetans to stop protesting at Chinese embassies

BEIJING (Reuters) - Tibet’s government-in-exile has urged Tibetans living abroad to stop protesting outside Chinese embassies worldwide and raise money for victims of an earthquake which killed more than 40,000 people in southwest China.

Police arrest a Tibetan exile during a protest in front of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi April 16, 2008. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

After weeks of being vilified for a crackdown on rioting in Tibet, China is suddenly at the receiving end of international sympathy and goodwill as it grapples with the aftermath of the country’s most devastating quake in 32 years.

“Tibetans across the world should shun staging demonstrations in front of the Chinese embassies in the respective host countries they live in at least until about the end of May,” the government-in-exile said in a statement seen on its website (www.tibet.net).

“We should initiate solidarity actions by organising prayer meetings and raising donations,” the statement said, adding that exiled Tibetans should explore the possibilities of establishing Sino-Tibetan friendship associations through such programmes.

Exiled Tibetans have staged almost daily protests outside Chinese embassies worldwide since hundreds were arrested in a crackdown in the wake of rioting in the Himalayan region in March, the worst since 1989.

China says about 20 “innocent” civilians were killed by mobs. The government-in-exile says more than 100 protesters were killed by Chinese troops. Hundreds of rioters have been arrested.

In protest at the crackdown, anti-Chinese activists dogged the international leg of the Olympic torch relay in April.

CHANCE FOR RECONCILIATION?

But the 7.9 magnitude quake which struck China on May 12, leaving a trail of death and destruction — 41,353 dead and 274,683 injured, according to latest figures, along with 32,000 missing and 5 million homeless — has stymied anti-Beijing sentiment, at least for now, and held out a chance for reconciliation.

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, announced a prayer meeting for quake victims last week, saying he felt “very, very sad” as soon as he heard of the deaths.

On Wednesday, an 18-year-old boy chosen by China as the 11th Panchen Lama — the most senior monk in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama — presided over a one-hour ceremony at Beijing’s Yonghe (Tibetan Lama) temple to pray for the souls of quake victims.

In 1995, China’s atheist Communist rulers and the Dalai Lama chose rival reincarnations of the 10th Panchen Lama, who died in 1989. The Dalai Lama’s choice, then 6 years old, disappeared from public view, leading international human rights watchdogs to call him the world’s youngest political prisoner.

Last week, about 500 Tibetan Buddhist monks in the regional capital, Lhasa, prayed for quake victims at Drepung monastery — built in 1416 and one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries — and donated 38,080 yuan ($5,500).

In nearby Qinghai province, about 1,100 monks are holding a week-long service at Ta’er monastery and have raised 110,000 yuan for victims.

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