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Last Updated: Friday, 3 August 2007, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Tibetans 'held after China rally'
Dalai Lama (file photo)
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile since 1959
A group of Tibetans were arrested in western China after public calls for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, reports say.

The incident took place on 1 August at a festival in Litang town in western Sichuan, Radio Free Asia and the International Campaign for Tibet said.

Local resident Runggye Adak was arrested after asking festival-goers if they wanted the Dalai Lama back.

People protesting at his arrest were also detained, the reports said.

The crowd had gathered in what is a traditionally Tibetan area to attend horse races.

A witness told Radio Free Asia that Runggye Adak snatched a microphone from a Chinese official.

He called for the Dalai Lama to return and for the Chinese authorities to free the Panchen Lama, the second holiest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, who has been detained by the Chinese authorities since 1995, when he was six years old.

The crowd backed his call, the witness said, before a Chinese official took the microphone away from him.

Another witness told Radio Free Asia that 20 people were detained initially and another 200 following a protest at the jail. The International Campaign for Tibet reported an unspecified number of detentions.

A police official contacted by the Associated Press news agency confirmed that a protest had taken place, but said that everything was "back to normal".

'No outside influence'

Reports of the protest came as China moved to tighten its control over Tibet's religious clergy.

Map

From 1 September, all reincarnations of "Living Buddhas" would need government approval, Xinhua news agency said, citing the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

"Living Buddhas" - the most senior example of which is the Dalai Lama - lead Tibet's religious communities and can have great influence.

Their selection should "preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups", rules posted on the administration's website said.

"The process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country," they said.

Beijing already claims the right to appoint the next Dalai Lama and has named its own replacement Panchen Lama.

China seized control of Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, establishing a government-in-exile in Dharamsala.

He remains a very popular figure for Tibetans, but China says he is a "splittist" who seeks to separate Tibet from China.


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