China to Tibetan leaders: Be more obedient

Associated Press

Singapore, January 22:

Communist officials have demanded stricter obedience from Buddhist leaders in the traditionally Tibetan region of Qinghai province, warning they would be punished if they failed to win greater support for Beijing’s policies toward the exiled Dalai Lama, people with knowledge of the discussions said today.

The threats were conveyed in a meeting between more than 20 Buddhist leaders and Chinese officials in November in Qinghai’s capital, Xining, according to two sources aware of details of the meeting.

The talks followed a visit to Tibet by envoys of the Dalai Lama in September, during which the sides held what exiled Tibetan officials described as the most extensive discussions on Tibetan issues in recent years.

The sources, with strong connections to Tibetan officials, spoke on condition of anonymity by telephone and e-mail from India. According to the sources, Buddhist leaders at the November meeting were told to win greater acceptance among their followers for Gyaltsen Norbu, the boy picked by China as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama.

A source said Chinese officials were particularly upset over the lackluster reception Norbu received on visits to Tibetan areas in 2003 that were marked by heavy security. Many Tibetan Buddhist clergy have rejected Norbu or pay only lip service to Beijing’s demands for recognition of his title. The religious leaders were told to present the Chinese positions as if they were their own ideas, and were forbidden to say they had been told to carry such messages, one source said. Officials told them that obedience would be rewarded with improvements to their “economic livelihoods,” while failure would be met with punishments, the source said. The source said officials attending included a vice governor of the province along with high ranking members of the police, armed forces and intelligence bureaus.

Tibetan leaders were also told that Beijing would not give ground on the Dalai Lama’s appeals for greater self-rule, and that such demands were “meaningless,” the source said.