Fears Flight Of
'Living Buddha' Could
Increase Repression In Tibet

(Agence France Presse) The secret flight to India of a "living Buddha," one of most revered figures in Tibetan Buddhism, could spark further Chinese repression in Tibet, a pro-Tibetan rights group warned Friday.
"There is a concern that there will be a security clampdown in Tibet and retaliation against his monastery," said Jane Caple, a spokeswoman of the London-based Tibet Information Network (TIN).
"We don't know what will happen to the people who were around him."
The Tibetan government-in-exile confirmed Friday that 14-year-old Ugyen Trinley Dorje had fled Tibet to join the Dalai Lama at his headquarters in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala.
Born to a nomadic Tibetan family in June 1985, Ugyen Trinley Dorje was enthroned the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa in September 1992 at Tsurphu monastery, near the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
The Karmapa is the spiritual leader of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, and ranks third in the Tibetan spiritual hierachy behind the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.
The Karmapa is one of the rare top figures in Tibetan Buddhism to enjoy the recognition of both the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama, and Beijing had attempted in recent years to use him to counter the influence of the Dalai Lama.
According to Caple, there was "concern among Tibetans that (the Karmapa) would be used by China for propaganda purposes."
"It is incredible that he has managed to leave," she said, adding his defection was "very embarrassing for the Chinese."
According to TIN, the Karmapa managed to evade "very tight security" and make the hazardous trek to India from Tibet with a small group of followers.
It said the Karmapa had fled because he was "unable to have access to his teacher," Tai Situ Rimpoche, who is living in exile in India.
The Chinese authorities confirmed Friday the Karmapa had left Tibet, but without acknowledging he had defected to the Dalai Lama.
The official Xinhua news agency quoted a government spokesman as saying the Karmapa had left the Tsurphu monastery in Lhasa recently with "a small number people around him."
He left a letter at the monastery saying he was going abroad to pick up musical instruments and the "black hats that had been used by the previous living Buddhas."
"This did not mean to betray the State, the nation, the monastery or the leadership," he said in his letter, according to Xinhua.
A Tibetan expert who requested anonymity said, however, the Karmapa's arrival in India was "clearly a defection."
"Thousands of Tibetans have been escaping out of Tibet in the past few years because they cannot get proper education," the expert added.
The flight of the "living Buddha" comes amid claims by Tibetan groups of increasing Chinese repression in their mountainous homeland.
In a report Monday, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy documented systematic violations of religious freedom, racial discrimination and the abuse of women and children's rights.
It also claimed that 1,432 monks and nuns had been expelled from their monasteries and convents last year.
(c) 2000 Agence France Presse


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