Dharmsala, India Life for Tibetans under Chinese rule has been “hell on earth,” the Dalai Lama said Tuesday, attacking Beijing in a speech to mark 50 years since the failed uprising that forced him into exile.
The unusually harsh rhetoric from the Nobel Peace laureate, who accused the Chinese government of treating his people “like criminals deserving to be put to death,” highlighted the widening gulf between the two sides since last year when violence engulfed the region and talks broke down.
“These 50 years have brought untold suffering to the land and people of Tibet,” the 73-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader told some 2,000 Tibetan exiles gathered to commemorate the 1959 rebellion.
Beijing, which accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to split Tibet from China and fomenting the recent violence, denounced his speech as “lies” and underlined the development it had brought to the vast Himalayan plateau.
The Dalai Lama’s 30-minute speech in Dharmsala, the two-street town perched in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas where he set up his headquarters in exile, was a systematic indictment of Chinese rule in Tibet.
Decades of China’s communist experiments, particularly the violent xenophobic Cultural Revolution, “thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth,” he said, adding that these campaigns led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.
Tibet’s unique religion, culture and language are “nearing extinction,” he said.
It was only the exile of 100,000 Tibetans to India that had allowed them to preserve some remnants of their heritage, he later told reporters.