Revival of bitter memories for spiritual leader

The Dalai Lama is facing a critical challenge – to quell the worst surge of violence in Tibet in 20 years as China accuses him of inciting protests that have sparked an aggressive military crackdown.

As an embodiment of non-violence, the Tibetan spiritual leader this week denounced those behind recent violent riots in Tibet that have left, according to Beijing, 16 dead. Tibetan groups put the figure at nearly 100, if not more.

However, he has found himself facing pressure both from Beijing, which says he and his “clique” instigated the violence, and from Tibetan activists, who claim Chinese provocateurs caused the riots.

The result has been what he described as a familiar “terrible feeling”, first felt after the 1959 Tibetan uprising during which he fled to exile in India. “On one side [in 1959], the Chinese were determined to crush. On one side Tibetans were determined to resist,” he told a press conference in Dharamsala, the Indian town that hosts the Tibetan government-in-exile.

“I was between them. Neither side willingly listened . . . I felt too much anxiety and helplessness. This time it is the same.”

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