BEIJING – The hardline leader of Tibet branded the Dalai Lama a “monster” as it emerged Wednesday that Tibetan students in Beijing have been ordered to effectively renounce any allegiance to the exiled nation's leader.
That battle by China to reassert control over its restive Tibetan population has now drawn in students attending schools and universities in Beijing.
Students are required to provide four answers, Tibetan sources tell the Times of London. First, they must answer the question “What position does the Dalai Lama occupy in your heart?” Second, they must provide the address and place of work of their parents. Third, they must give details of their own identity card. Finally, they must guarantee not to take part in any political activities.
The demand that students effectively denounce the Dalai Lama, declared only on Tuesday by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as an enemy of China, highlights the nervousness among Communist Party authorities at the continued influence the 14th reincarnation of the Ocean of Wisdom still wields among Tibetans.
State media, meanwhile, reported more than 100 people had surrendered to police in and around Tibet's regional capital of Lhasa, where peaceful protests against Chinese rule turned violent last Friday.
Police barred foreigners from traveling to areas outside Tibet with large Tibetan populations and were seen removing Tibetans from vehicles traveling into lower lying areas populated mainly by Chinese.
The communist government had promised leniency for those who handed themselves in — and harsh punishment for those who did not. No figures were given for people hunted down and arrested and it was impossible to confirm the reports of people surrendering.
Foreign media are banned from Tibet, and China's entirely state-controlled media have faithfully reported only the official version of events, in which the government has said rioters killed 16 people. The government said troops did not fire on protesters and has denied claims by overseas Tibetan groups that 80 people were killed.
The official Xinhua News Agency said mobs smashed and torched shops, homes, banks, government schools and offices, along with dozens of vehicles, setting fires in more than 300 locations altogether.
Xinhua said losses to businesses were estimated at more than 99 million yuan ($14 million).
The protests marked the biggest challenge in almost two decades to Chinese rule in the Himalayan region, which People's Liberation Army forces occupied in 1950 after several decades of effective independence.
Initially led by Buddhist monks, the demonstrations began peacefully on March 10, the anniversary of a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, before spiraling out of control.
On Tuesday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao accused supporters of Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, of organizing the violent clashes in hopes of sabotaging this summer's Beijing Olympics and bolstering their campaign for Tibetan independence.
Tibet's hardline Communist Party chief followed that with a viscous personal attack on the Dalai Lama, winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.
"The Dalai Lama is a wolf wrapped in a habit, a monster with a human face and animal's heart." Zhang Qingli was quoted as telling officials. "We are now engaged in a fierce blood-and-fire battle with the Dali clique, a life-and-death battle between us and the enemy."
Tibet's former governor Raidi, meanwhile, accused the India-based Tibetan government-in-exile of engineering the riot to "disturb the social stability at such a sensitive time."
"The violent crime instigated by the Dalai clique is nothing but a symbol that shows fierce head-on combat between us and the Dalai clique," Raidi was quoted as saying by Xinhua on Wednesday.
The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet during the 1959 uprising, has urged his followers to remain peaceful, saying he would resign as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile if violence got out of control.
However, he also suggested China may have fomented unrest in the Lhasa and nearby provinces to discredit him.
The protests have focused world attention on China's human rights record ahead of the Olympics, prompting discussion of a possible boycott of the Games' Aug. 8 opening ceremony and calls from U.S. officials and others for China to address Tibetans' grievances and engage in direct talks with the Dalai Lama.
Critics say China fuels such anger through harsh restrictions on Tibetan culture and Buddhism — including routine vilification of the Dalai Lama, who is still deeply revered by most Tibetans. The government has also been accused of marginalizing Tibetans economically, in part by encouraging migration to Tibet by members of the Han Chinese ethnic majority.
Lhasa was reportedly calm under a tight security presence that moved in over the weekend.
An employee of the local Coca-Cola bottler, who declined to give his name, said a small demonstration was held in the city on Tuesday, but the protesters fled when troops arrived.
He said the company had conducted no business since Friday when customers, including a wholesaler, shops and supermarkets, had been attacked and looted.
Protests spilled over from Tibet into traditionally Tibetan areas of surrounding provinces where more than half of China's 5.4 million Tibetans live.
Police and soldiers set up checkpoints across a wide swath of western China and officers turned back an Associated Press photographer traveling west from Sichuan's provincial capital of Chengdu near the famed Wolong panda preserve.
Officers said an order was issued Monday barring foreigners from all Tibetan areas in the province for 10 days.
An official with the Sichuan Foreign Affairs Department said no official notice had been issued, but said she had heard of two cases of police turning reporters away.
"I wouldn't suggest trying again," said the woman, who like many Chinese government workers, gave only her surname, Yuan.
China imposed a ban on tour groups traveling to Tibet last week, dealing a blow to the region's fast-growing tourist industries.
Officers were also seen pulling Tibetans in traditional costume off buses leaving Tibetan regions, searching their luggage and questioning them. It was not clear whether they were allowed to continue their journeys.
While the crackdown has spurred outrage and protests overseas, most Chinese appeared to back the government, underscoring the effectiveness of its strategy of catering to nationalism by portraying its critics as traitors and separatists.
Insults, hate-speech and threats directed at Tibetans could be found on many online forums, and overseas groups reported unconfirmed attacks by members of the Chinese public on monks and ordinary Tibetans in Chengdu and other cities.
The Associated Press and the Times of London contributed to this report.