Apologetics Index
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Religion News Report

January 31, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 318) - 1/2

See Religion News Blog for the Latest news about cults,
religious sects, world religions, and related issues

=== Falun Gong
1. China Tells Falun Gong Not to Make Hong Kong a Base
2. China Detailed Sect's Suicide Attempt
3. Tiananmen burnings fake - sect
4. Press Statement
5. Too Hot to Handle
6. China prepares for new offensive against 'dangerous' sect
7. Jobless on sect watch in Tiananmen Square
8. When does a faith become a cult?

=== Falun Gong - China's Government-controlled Media
9. Suicidal Blaze, Another Crime of Falun Gong Cult

=== Scientology
10. Scientology adds quietly to holdings

=== Mormonism
11. French 'cult' bill doesn't target LDS

=== Buddhism
12. Dalai Lama faces great wall of indifference
13. Dalai Lama says political heir should be elected

» Part 2

=== Catholicism
14. Church won't bend rules on sacrament
15. Man sues teacher and Catholic Church over 1984 strapping

=== Hate Groups
16. Butler loses bid to delay Aryan auction
17. Former Aryans desert Butler for new church
18. Prison Gang Duo Linked to Dog That Killed Woman
19. Granddaughter tells of life with Winrod
20. Leader of anti-Semitic church walks out of his kidnapping trial
21. Neo-Nazi groups on rise in Europe

=== Other News
23. Commune ordered to return 'brainwashed' woman's cash
24. Texas Hunt for Missing Atheist Yields More Remains
25. Discovery of Bones May Close O'Hair Case
26. O'Hair Suspect Admits to 'Violence'
27. O'Hair's Son Happy Mystery Is Over
28. Chinese Indonesians Welcome President's Lifting of Ban on Confucianism
29. Va. Senate Passes Driver, Pledge Bills

=== Alternative Healing
30. Medicine taken with a dose of the spiritual

=== Film
31. Christian Comedy Aimed at Youth

=== Falun Gong

1. China Tells Falun Gong Not to Make Hong Kong a Base
Bloomberg, Jan. 31, 2001
http://www.bloomberg.com/Off-site Link

Beijing, Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- China warned the Falun Gong spiritual movement it shouldn't try to make Hong Kong a center for anti-Chinese propaganda, Reuters and Agence France-Presse said.

The central government will not allow any organization to use Hong Kong as an anti-China base, the agencies cited the semi- official China News Agency as saying. Such activities will damage Hong Kong's ``one country, two systems'' status and its prosperity, a spokesman for the government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong told China News.

About 1,000 Falun Gong members from 20 countries attended a meeting in Hong Kong earlier this month. The movement is banned in China though allowed to meet in Hong Kong, where religious freedom is guaranteed under the constitution.

Falun Gong, which practices a mixture of Taoist and Buddhist doctrines, says it isn't a political organization.

Recent activities by the movement in Hong Kong had become increasingly political and international, the Liaison Office spokesman said.

2. China Detailed Sect's Suicide Attempt
AP, Jan. 30,m 2001
http://dailynews.muzi.com/Off-site Link

[LatelineNews: 2001-1-30] BEIJING - Hoping to validate its crackdown on Falun Gong, China on Tuesday portrayed five people who set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square as obsessive sect members, among them a 12-year-old girl who cried out to her mother to be saved.

In its first comprehensive account of the attempted group suicide on Jan. 23, the government said seven Falun Gong followers - not five as it previously reported - sought to commit suicide in hopes of ``ascending to heaven.''

State television broadcast security camera footage of followers engulfed in flames and police rushing to put them out with fire extinguishers. One man, his body and clothes charred and blackened, sat crossed-legged - a distinctive Falun Gong meditation pose - after police had doused the flames.

Of the five who succeeded in setting fire to themselves, 36-year-old Liu Chunling died. Her 12-year-old daughter, Liu Siying, was among four others seriously injured, the government's Xinhua News Agency said.

The attempted group suicide appeared to be the most radical act in what has largely been a campaign of civil disobedience against the communist government's 18-month ban on the group. It came three weeks after Li, who lives in New York, called for more vigorous action to protest the crackdown.

In the lengthy state media accounts and a separate editorial, the government attempted to fix blame on Li. The reports reiterated claims that the sect has caused more than 1,600 deaths and cited Li's Jan. 1 essay posted on group Web sites in which he suggested the crackdown was pushing the sect ``beyond tolerance.''

The reports dwelled on 12-year-old Liu.

Liu's mother, who died of her burns, introduced her to Falun Gong last March, Xinhua said. It said fellow practitioners encouraged Liu to set herself on fire by telling her the flames would not hurt her and would lead her to paradise.

Xinhua said the seven ``obsessive'' Falun Gong followers came to Beijing from the central city of Kaifeng. They put gasoline in plastic bottles of Sprite because ``gasoline looks similar to Sprite,'' they each carried two lighters and agreed to ignite themselves at 2:30 p.m. at different locations on Tiananmen's vast plaza, it said.

3. Tiananmen burnings fake - sect
AFP, Jan. 31, 2001
http://news.24.com/Off-site Link

Beijing - The falungong spiritual movement on Wednesday denied Chinese allegations that seven people who tried to burn themselves to death in Beijing last week were members of the organisation.

US-based members of the group issued the denial after state-run Chinese media on Tuesday launched a massive new anti-falungong campaign, detailing the alleged circumstances surrounding the 23 January mass suicide attempt.

Since the teachings of the group explicitly make any form of killing a sin, the seven - including a 12-year-old girl - could not possibly have been falungong adherents, said Zhang Erping, a US-based spokesperson.

''The falungong is peaceful and makes it very clear that you are not allowed to kill, let alone commit suicide,'' he told AFP.

The falungong on Tuesday issued a statement which did not directly deny the people attempting suicide were members of the group, but said there was no proof they were adherents.

''We don't believe these are falungong practitioners,'' said Gail Rachlin, another US-based spokesperson. ''We are telling our practitioners that suicide is a sin.''
falungong said it was eager to know the truth about what actually happened on Tiananmen, and it urged China to allow the United Nations, international human rights groups and foreign media to investigate.

4. Press Statement
New York Falun Dafa InfoCenter, Jan. 30, 2001 (Press Release)
http://clearwisdom.net/Off-site Link

Once again, the Chinese state-run media has made a mockery of itself by
producing a so-called Falun Gong suicide story.

The Chinese press has run a story on some unidentified persons who claim that
they are among those five so-called Falun Gong practitioners who attempted
self-immolation on Tiananmen Square last week. After a week of preparation,
the Chinese Government has now added two more persons to the group, bringing
the total to seven. They are now claiming that one of those involved was a 12
year-old girl. CNN eyewitness reports had said that there were only five
people involved, in which one woman was known to have died from her injuries.
What is the real story?

There is no proof that these people in this Xinhua News report are Falun Gong

5. Too Hot to Handle
TIME Asia, Feb. 5, 2001
http://www.time.com/Off-site Link

(...) A Beijing arm of the outlawed spiritual group Falun Gong strongly suggested the protesters, one of whom died, were devotees. ''We heeded a call from our master to strengthen our fight against evil,'' said a member of the group based in the Chinese capital. Yet hours later, Falun Gong's New York head office distanced itself from the act: ''This so-called suicide attempt on Tiananmen Square has nothing to do with Falun Gong practitioners because the teachings of Falun Gong prohibit any form of killing.''

This lack of solidarity is adding to a growing desperation among the meditation group's rank and file, many of whom feel out of touch with their exiled master and misguided by his overseas ministers.

But despite its outward cohesion, Falun Gong is struggling to redefine its philosophical heart. ''We all believe in Falun Gong,'' says an acolyte from Chengdu, central China. ''But not all of us believe in the same Falun Gong.''

Certainly, the government would be delighted by any disarray within the group's ranks.

For its part, Falun Gong continues to claim that it has no overarching political agenda. Still, the group has taken to describing Jiang Zemin as a ''demon worshipper'' infected with ''Mad Power disease.'' And on January 1, its mysterious master, New York-based Li Hongzhi, upped the ante by releasing a curious scripture that appeared to allow violence in extreme cases when protesting ill treatment. For some Falun Gong followers, the words were a welcome call to arms. ''It is not in Falun Gong's nature to be violent,'' says a retired teacher, who was arrested last year for her ties to the group. ''But only Falun Gong believers have the bravery to die for their cause.''

Such fervor caused Li's handlers to recast the New Year's message. Says New York spokeswoman Gail Rachlin: ''The essay is about stepping out and telling of evil, not about creating evil.'' Such fine-tuning may be too subtle for the thousands of believers who flock to Beijing to voice their protest. Indeed, New York's disowning of the five immolators has bewildered some Falun Gong adherents living in China. ''I know that violence is against the spirit of Falun Gong,'' says a 53-year-old factory worker from Nanjing. ''But why don't our foreign friends support us when we are in trouble?'' For his part, the master has not expounded further on the subject.

6. China prepares for new offensive against 'dangerous' sect
The Guardian (England), Jan. 29, 2001
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Off-site Link

The confrontation between the Falun Gong and the Chinese government has reached a new level, Beijing declaring 18-months after it banned the sect that poses a ''serious threat''.

The official People's Daily published complaints yesterday that ''Falun Gong addicts'' had ''spoiled the festive air of the Chinese New Year'' by staging a suicide protest last week in Tiananmen Square. It said the sect posed a serious threat to social order and ethics.

The Falun Gong organisation abroad has denied any connection with the incident, in which one person died. But there is evidence that some members have interpreted an ambiguous New Year message from the sect's founder as sanctioning more extreme forms of action.

Meanwhile Beijing has announced plans to set up urban anti-riot squads, admitting that it is ill-prepared to deal with social unrest. The plan provides for at least 300 specially trained officers in Beijing, and of 200 or more in provincial capitals.

The Chinese press reported the formation of an ''anti-cult association'', apparently set up by disaffected former members. Beijing has started a mass signature campaign against the movement.

The Falun Gong's spiritual ''master'', Li Hongzhi, insists that his movement has no political ambitions. But the Falun Gong's overseas website and other publicity now give prominence to US criticism of Beijing.

Mr Li has confused his supporters by warning in his New Year message that the ''forbearance'' taught by Buddha ''does not mean tolerating evil beings''. He said the ''law'' he propounded did not justify ''ignoring terrible crimes''. If the evil went too far, ''then various measures at different levels can be used to stop it and eradicate it''.

Ten days later the Falun Gong centre in the US issued a clarification admitting that ''certain disciples had some extreme interpretations'' of Mr Li's message, and that some people thought that ''we are going to resort to violence''.

The Falun Gong has denied that the attempted self-immolation by five people in Tiananmen Square had anything to do with its members, and it published a complaint to CNN, whose Beijing reporter said that four of the five were seen in flames with their hands held up ''in a classic Falun Gong meditation pose''.
But some observers believe it is possible that the five were driven by desperation - and confusion about Mr Li's ''new scripture'' - to attempt suicide.

7. Jobless on sect watch in Tiananmen Square
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Jan. 31, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

Thousands of unemployed people in Beijing are being paid 40 yuan (HK$37) a day to root out Falun Gong members in Tiananmen Square, a mainland source close to the Government claimed yesterday.

The police office in the square had been upgraded to a full branch of 500 officers but could still not stop infiltration by sect members, the source said.

So the jobless brigade has been drafted in with orders to mingle in plain clothes and swoop on sect members when they appear.

8. When does a faith become a cult?
Japan Times (Japan), Jan. 30, 2001
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/Off-site Link

FALUN GONG'S CHALLENGE TO CHINA: Spiritual Practice or ''Evil Cult,''Off-site Link by Danny Schechter. Akashic Books, 2000, 225 pp., $24 (cloth).

(...) A middle-age woman in a purple sweater sitting a few meters away was questioned, brusquely, by two police officers. They grabbed her and led her into the van; she offered no resistance.

The incident troubled me. Who was this woman? What right did the police have to arrest her? How did they know if she was Falun Gong? Was I witnessing the heavy-handed suppression of religion, or was the Chinese government shrewdly nipping a dangerous cult in the bud?

''Falun Gong's Challenge to China,'' a reader assembled by New York media critic Danny Schechter, attempts to answer some of these questions. Schechter recognizes the futility of trying to explain Falun Gong single-handedly and instead presents a diverse range of viewpoints, allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

The ''blind men'' describing this elephant of a ''meditation group'' range from Chinese government commentators, human-rights advocates, Western scholars, PR experts and the self-proclaimed ''Master,'' Li Hongzhi himself.

Oddly enough, Li offers the least informative account of all. He is cryptic at best, oblique and obscure at worst. While his followers flock to Tiananmen Square to face certain arrest, what, if anything can be made of this pronouncement from the master. ''Shall we swat flies or mosquitoes when they come inside? If you cannot drive them out, then killing them is no big deal.'' On Beijing's reaction to his movement, Li offers this chilling comment: ''There could be another Tiananmen incident, a second mass massacre.'' Elsewhere he sounds outright naive, if not disingenuous, when he says that the Falun Gong movement, composed of an alleged 100 million followers, ''doesn't have an organizational structure at all.''

Talking of the demons that haunt mankind and legitimize his quest, Li sounds simply nutty: ''The aliens come from other planets. Some are from dimensions that human beings have not yet discovered.'' He also says he can fly and control people from a distance and that scientists would agree with him if scientists weren't too politicized to see the real truth.

Having lived in Japan during the time of Aum Shinrikyo, just hearing talk of levitation and special powers by a guru with messianic aspirations makes me cringe. Seeing ordinary people put themselves at risk and get hurt in the name of some fat cat guru in luxurious exile is painful. It predisposes me so much against the grandiose pretensions of Li Hongzhi that I am ready to give the Chinese government the benefit of the doubt on this one: Falun Gong looks like a cult, smells like a cult and by any reasonable definition is a cult.

The Chinese argue that Falun Gong must be smashed to protect human rights and free speech. Sounds like communist doublespeak you say? But incredibly enough, there is a point beneath the harsh rhetoric: Cults lack transparency and hide the truth. During Aum's short, inglorious history, it targeted publications and television stations that dared to challenge its right to be ''left alone'' to pursue its bloody agenda. Cults are notoriously thin-skinned when it comes to media criticism, and Falun Gong is no exception. The first few big rallies in Tianjin and Beijing were directed at unfriendly media coverage, long before the group was deemed an evil cult and banned.

Early in the book, Schechter writes, ''In 1996, for reasons that haven't been fully explained, Li, who speaks only Chinese, came to the U.S. with permanent visa status for him and his family.'' One wishes that Schechter had followed up on this and other interesting hunches, such as his initial sense that Falun Gong was a CIA plot to destabilize China. The deeply illiberal, antihomosexual rhetoric of the movement is duly noted but not grappled with.

Schechter offers an insightful account of how Beijing's flowery anti-FLG rhetoric was not initiated by the Chinese government, which tolerated the sect for a very long time, but by ex-members who had had a falling out with the master.

Schechter is better at asking questions than answering them and 200-plus pages later we still don't know, though not for the author's lack of trying.

Schechter's own observations on the cult have an unapologetic liberal bias: He sees religion where others might see a cult. And in a contrarian, sporting sort of way, he has taken a liking to the unlikely revolutionaries now challenging China. He comes close to bending over backward for them. But he is a sober observer and doesn't dally on the primrose path for long.

The author's critical faculties are fully operational when it comes to his appraisal of the Beijing establishment and the Western media.

The author, who calls himself a ''media dissector,'' is too smart to make a claim to the last word on such an opaque topic. He gives adequate space to conflicting, even contrary viewpoints.

I have a few factual quibbles with Schechter's history of protest in China, especially when he says students in 1989 were originally campaigning to reform the government and renew the Party, ''not overthrow it, as was erroneously thought by many abroad.'' Chai Ling, the commander in chief of the students, told me in a recorded interview at the height of the movement that the students were ''trying to overthrow the government.'' And it's admittedly a minor point when talking about an icon, but the man in front of the tank didn't stop the tanks from going in, the tanks were retreating at the time he made world photo history.

Overall the volume is cleanly edited, no mean feat for a text littered with difficult-to-spell Chinese terms.

=== Falun Gong - China's Government-controlled Media

9. Suicidal Blaze, Another Crime of Falun Gong Cult
Xinhua, Jan. 31. 2001 Link

BEIJING, January 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Xinhua News Agency, China's leading news service, Tuesday published a feature story detailing the suicide attempts of seven Falun Gong practitioners at Tiananmen Square on January 23.

The tragedy once again demonstrated the evil nature of Falun Gong and sounded an alarm to those obsessed with the cult. Five Falun Gong practitioners, including a 12-year-old girl, soaked themselves in gasoline and set themselves on fire at around 2:40 PM on the eve of China's Lunar New Year. One died on the spot
and the four others injured in the suicide attempts. The police on duty rushed to their rescue and immediately sent the injured to local hospital.

Police investigation showed that the seven people who attempted suicide were from Kaifeng City in central China's Henan Province. They were all avid Falun Gong practitioners.

Liu Baorong, a textile factory worker who left her post due to an industrial injury in 1984, began practicing Falun Gong in 1995. ''Everyone of us knew what we were going to do in Beijing before we left Kaifeng,'' Liu confirmed, ''We were prepared to set ourselves on fire and going up to heaven.''

''Li Hongzhi often mentioned in his 'scripture' and speeches that there were still some people not 'standing out'. If I did not 'stand out', I would not realize 'nirvana','' said Liu, who believed that to obtain ''nirvana'' was to go to the heaven.

''It was a good thing to go to the heaven,'' she said, ''It took a mere moment and one would not feel pain.''

For this purpose, Liu drank gasoline at Tiananmen Square.

During the week, the seven people imagined how wonderful it would be to enter heaven. When Chen Guo was worried about the pain, Wang Jindong told her that unlike average people, Falun Gong practitioners would not feel pain when they were on fire. They will go up to heaven in a second.

Liu Yunfang created stories about ''paradise'' for Liu Siying: you would become a ''religious king'' once you enter ''paradise''. You would have many servants if you became king.

=== Scientology

10. Scientology adds quietly to holdings
St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 30, 2001
http://www.sptimes.com/Off-site Link

CLEARWATER -- The Church of Scientology has purchased a 120-unit apartment complex just north of its sprawling Hacienda Gardens staff housing on Saturn Avenue.

Few people have heard about the church's $4-million purchase of Sherwood Gardens Apartments in 1999 -- the church bought it under a corporate name. No Scientology staff members live there now, but church spokesman Ben Shaw said Sherwood Gardens was purchased with an eye to the future.

In coming years, the Church of Scientology plans to nearly double the number of staff members in Clearwater when the massive ''Super Power'' building is completed downtown. When the church's expansion is complete, the Clearwater staff will go from its existing 1,300 to at least 2,000 -- and those additional 700 people will need somewhere to live.

For several years, the church has been buying downtown Clearwater property for Scientology offices, services and guest facilities. The church has $42-million of property listed in its name, almost all of it in Clearwater, according to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's office.
* For details on what the cult has done to the City of Clearwater, see:

Occupied ClearwaterOff-site Link
Exposing the criminal cult of Scientology in the Tampa Bay area

=== Mormonism

11. French 'cult' bill doesn't target LDS
Deseret News, Jan. 31, 2001
http://www.deseretnews.com/Off-site Link

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not among more than 100 religious groups that could have their activities severely curtailed in France if legislation now being considered by that nation's parliament is approved.

A story in Saturday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution said the church was one of 173 religious ''sects or cults''Off-site Link that French lawmakers want to rein in under a proposed law that would restrict the activities of faith groups so labeled.

Other print media picked up on the story, and additional reports have circulated on the Internet.

While there is real concern about the legislation among religious freedom advocates and leaders of many faiths, the LDS Church isn't named as one of the potentially restricted groups, according to Cole Durham, a professor of law at Brigham Young University.

Durham, in France Tuesday attending a religious freedom conference, Durham said the erroneous report of LDS Church involvement grew out of a list that was circulated years ago and not the current list of groups that many in the French government consider ''dangerous,'' according to French news accounts.

A letter written by a member of the French National Assembly, Alain Gest, to an LDS Church member in France back in 1996 also confirms that the church ''does not appear on the list of those qualified as sectarian by the commission for research on sects.'' A copy of that letter was provided to the Deseret News by the LDS Church Tuesday.

Joseph Grieboski, president of the Institute on Religion and Foreign Policy, Washington, D.C., said those targeted by the proposed law include three well-known Catholic organizations, along with Scientologists and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Grieboski said another problem with the measure is that ''there is no published definition of what defines a sect, according to French authorities.''

The proposed law seeks to ban the named groups from opening missions or seeking new members near public places like hospitals, schools and retirement homes. The most controversial provision of the measure seeks to criminalize ''mental manipulation,'' a term so broad that even many of the country's mainstream religious groups not targeted by the proposal have expressed grave concern about it.

The measure also would allow the government to dissolve religious organizations whose leaders are convicted of two or more crimes.

Durham, an internationally known specialist in religious freedom, said the proposed law is definitely troublesome. The fact that the LDS Church is not targeted is ''actually quite significant because these lists have caused tremendous problems for a lot of other groups. People who care about religious liberty issues in general are not so concerned about whether it's our particular church that's being targeted. These other groups have felt stigmatized by this, have had difficulty renting halls. There are all kinds of ways this has caused discrimination'' and problems for them.

The backdrop for the proposed law comes out of a mass suicide a few years ago by members of a group called the ''Solar Temple,'' similar to what occurred with the Heaven's Gate sect in California in 1997.

''It has created a lot of fear and anxiety about dangerous sects,'' Durham said. ''There are some active organizations trying to draw attention to sects and spreading concerns about them. This plays into some kind of stereotypical accounts of what sects are like, how they brainwash people and do bad things to them.

''It captures their imagination and stirs people's fears. I think there is some overreaction going on in France, and there has been some in Germany, but I think it's calming down. We had some in the United States in the late '70s and early '80s. Americans basically let normal religious liberty principles apply and the concerns have died down.''

The LDS Church has had a presence in France since 1849 and organized a branch with eight members there in 1850. At the end of 1997, there were 30,000 church members and three missions established there.

In France, Grieboski said, support for the measure is so heavy that ''I expect that the legislation will pass overwhelmingly. Part of the problem is that so much of the opposition to it has been American, and there's a cultural attitude now saying that 'if Americans don't like it, we must be doing something right.'''

Grieboski said the proposal is frightening because it synthesizes what he believes is an ''almost militant anti-religiosity spreading throughout western Europe that is influencing the emerging democracies of central and eastern Europe. In particular when we've raised the issue (of religious freedom) with the Russians, they say that they've seen (proposals to curb such freedoms) with the French and the Germans.

''Our biggest concern with the legislation is not just what it will do to individual religious groups in France but as a model for the rest of the world. If a bastion of liberal democratic society like France will limit the religious expression of its own citizens, what does that say to all of those central European countries now developing laws on the relationship between church and state?''
* The list, which has been misrepresented by cults, extremist groups, cult
apologists, and careless Christians, is found hereOff-site Link
But before we proceed, it is necessary to clear up a possible misunderstanding: not all spiritual movements other than the traditional religions, movements which are commonly called sects, are dangerous, such as, for example, Baptists, Quakers, and Mormons. Their role can, sometimes, even be regarded as very positive: ''You meet the best and the worst in sects (...). Sometimes, by means of the sects, some people find a sense of belonging to a warm friendly group, others find again a direction for their lives, others still are structured. Among my patients, some entered sects. I would not want for them to come out of there for anything in the world, because the sect is used by them temporarily as a tutor.'' ''

=== Buddhism

12. Dalai Lama faces great wall of indifference
The Australian (Australia), Jan. 31, 2001
http://theaustralian.com.au/Off-site Link

The Dalai Lama has hit a wall of indifference in his latest efforts to secure talks with Beijing, despite suggestions that the Communist Party was eager to reopen contact to bolster its bid for the 2008 Olympics.

Speaking to journalists in India, Tibet's spiritual leader revealed that China had not responded to his proposal that the Tibetan government-in-exile send a delegation to re-establish direct dialogue.

The offer was made on behalf of the Dalai Lama by his brother, who secretly visited the Chinese capital in October.

''They have indicated that it would be no problem for my brother to go alone again, but as far as the delegation is concerned, there has been no answer as yet,'' he said.

Despite Beijing's obvious reluctance to engage the exiled religious leader in negotiations, the Dalai Lama remains outwardly confident that the regime will eventually be forced to bow to international pressure to resolve the issue.

Beijing severed contact with the Dalai Lama in 1998 and launched a campaign of vilification that has seen the Tibetan leader abused as everything from a ''splittist'' intent on stirring up unrest against China to a cannibal.

Tibetans say that in recent years Beijing has tightened control over the region, restricting religious worship and education while seeking to turn Tibetan culture into a tourism drawcard.

Tens of thousands of Tibetans have voted with their feet, choosing to flee abroad, mostly via a two-month pilgrimage across the treacherous Himalayas, through Nepal to India.

Their final destination, Dharamsala, the seat of the government-in-exile, is now straining to cope with its growing population.

A glimmer of hope has emerged as the Chinese Communist Party lobbies to bring the 2008 Olympics to Beijing. The Government is thought to be so keen to head off international opprobrium for its human rights abuses, including oppression of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Muslim Uighurs and followers of the outlawed Falun Gong movement, that it is willing to contemplate dialogue on Tibet with its sworn enemy.

The apparent softening in Beijing's diplomatic stance has not changed the fact that human rights groups regularly report on the imprisonment, beating and execution of monks and nuns, as well as ordinary citizens in Tibet who express loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

13. Dalai Lama says political heir should be elected
The Daily Telegraph (England), Jan. 30, 2001
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Off-site Link

The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual and secular ruler of Tibet, has decided to bequeath his political authority to an elected leader, who may be chosen as soon as this year.

His religious role will be handed to an infant identified as his reincarnation, in line with Tibetan tradition. The Dalai Lama, who is 65, fears a power vacuum after his death, when China and the exiled Tibetan leadership are likely to identify rival infants as the one ''true'' reincarnation of Tibet's god-king.

The Dalai Lama was the absolute monarch of Tibet, as well as its spiritual leader, before the country was overrun by Communist troops in 1949. Despite four decades of exile, and an unceasing hate campaign emanating from Beijing, his authority and prestige among the different factions of the Tibetan community remain unchallenged.

But Dalai Lamas are only technically heads of the most powerful of the four great schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The current Dalai Lama is keen to start grooming a political leader who would have sufficient authority and international standing to keep Tibet's factions from falling into dangerous feuding.

He ruled out the 15-year-old Karmapa Lama, leader of another great school of Tibetan Buddhism, who arrived in India just over a year ago after a daring escape across the Himalayas from life under Chinese control. The Dalai Lama said: ''I don't think so. At the moment he is too young.''

He has said that if he dies in exile, and the Tibetan people wish to continue the institution, his reincarnation will not be born in territory under Chinese control. ''That reincarnation will be outside, in the free world, this I can say with absolute certainty,'' the Tibetan supreme spiritual leader told Voice of America radio in May 1997.

China has already shown itself willing to fight over a reincarnation.

» Part 2