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Tibetan 'living Buddha' Phurbu Tsering jailed by China

Protests in Tibet in March 2008
China has not hesitated to use military might to crush any Tibetan uprising

China has sentenced a Tibetan Buddhist lama to more than eight years in jail for illegal possession of ammunition and embezzlement.

The monk, Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche, denies all charges, his lawyer said.

The man described as a Living Buddha was arrested after nuns at his temple protested against a crackdown on Tibetan Buddhism.

This had followed anti-China riots that erupted in Lhasa in 2008 and spread through the Himalayan region.

Delay

Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche "was charged with illegal possession of ammunition and embezzlement, but he denied all charges," lawyer Jiang Tianyong told AFP.

He had been arrested on 18 May 2008, a few days after more than 80 nuns in Ganzi held a demonstration against an official campaign to impose "patriotic re-education" on their convents, in which they were required to denounce Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

"He was tried in April and the sentence had been scheduled to be read out days later, but for some unknown reason it was postponed until 23 December," he added.

The 53-year-old monk has not decided if he will appeal against the verdict, Mr Jiang said; he added that he had not been allowed to attend the court.

THE TIBET DIVIDE
China says Tibet was always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th century
In 1950, China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India
Dalai Lama now advocates a "middle way" with Beijing, seeking autonomy but not independence

Phurbu Tsering is a "living Buddha" from Ganzi, a part of southwest China's Sichuan province dominated by ethnic Tibetans.

Protests and rioting against Chinese presence in the region broke out in Ganzi in March last year after deadly unrest swept Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet, which is next to Sichuan.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has been campaigning for "meaningful autonomy" for Tibetans within China.

But his proposals, including autonomy for Tibetans outside the present boundary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, have been described by Beijing as a "back door to splitting the motherland".



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