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Wednesday, April 29, 1998 Published at 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK


Tibetan protestor dead
image: [ The Tibetan activist died despite being treated for burns ]
The Tibetan activist died despite being treated for burns

Preparations are being made in India for the funeral of a Tibetan who died after setting himself on fire in protest at police breaking up a hunger strike in New Delhi. Thubten Ngodup died just hours after the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, visited him and six hunger strikers who were forcibly taken to hospital after fasting for seven weeks in protest at Chinese rule in Tibet. As a new hunger strike begins, the BBC's Religious Affairs Reporter Jane Little explains the dilemma now facing the Dalai Lama:

Thubten Ngodup's death and final statement urging Tibetans to carry on their protests, has created a marytr for the cause, and presented the Dalai Lama with an even greater dilemma.

[ image: The Dalai Lama arrives at a hospital to visit some of the hunger strikers]
The Dalai Lama arrives at a hospital to visit some of the hunger strikers
He has always opposed hunger strikes as a form of violence contrary to the principles of Buddhism.

But he has stopped short of calling for an end to this one, aware that to do so may force open splits in the community.

The Tibetan Youth Congress, which organised the protest, has warned that "more blood will flow".

The Dalai Lama has acknowleged their "sense of frustration and urgency" and repeated a call to the international community to do something "more substantial".

But he has also admitted that his policy of pursuing "meaningful dialogue" with China has failed.

China has repeated that it will not accept the role of any special coordinator on Tibet, nor sit down with a leader it does not recognise.

The Dalai Lama favours a diplomatic solution and one which merely seeks cultural autonomy in Tibet, while the Tibetan Youth Congress wants full independence.

Its 10,000 members regard "His Holiness" as a living god and witnesses say his visit has had an uplifting effect.

But with an emotional religious funeral expected to take place in a couple of days, they are unlikely to heed his advice to end the fast.

Instead they will seek to capitalise on international attention highlighting their cause - a factor which won't have been missed by the publicity-wise Dalai Lama.

This protest, the longest ever hunger strike by Tibetan activists, has shown China that his supporters are serious in their demands and that he, by comparison, is a moderate man to deal with.

In a statement after his visit, he said that although he disagreed with their methods, he did admire their determination.


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