2015-12-22 00:43:08 UTC
spiritual leader is paying off, especially in Britain.
ALDERSHOT, England – Thousands of Buddhists from all over Britain packed into the Aldershot football stadium southwest of
London on June 29, quietly waiting under a hot sun to see the Dalai Lama.
Just outside the turnstiles, another group of Buddhists awaited the Tibetan spiritual leader.
“False Dalai Lama, stop lying, false Dalai Lama, stop lying!” they chanted over and over through megaphones, drummers
pounding out a rhythmic tempo. When he spoke, only snippets of his remarks could be heard above the cacophony.
“China must be thrilled at this,” said Gary Beesley, a British devotee of Tibetan Buddhism who had travelled from Manchester to
hear the Dalai Lama. “They really must love it.”
The Aldershot demonstration was part of a pattern: Noisy protesters are following the globetrotting Dalai Lama almost
everywhere he goes, denouncing him in terms that echo the invective heaped upon the Nobel Peace laureate by China’s ruling
On the surface, the commotion appears to stem from an arcane, centuries-old schism in Tibetan Buddhism. But a Reuters
investigation has found that the religious sect behind the protests has the backing of the Communist Party. The group has
emerged as an instrument in Beijing’s long campaign to undermine support for the Dalai Lama, a political exile who commands
the loyalty of millions of Chinese citizens and whom Beijing accuses of plotting secession for Tibet.
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The protesters are members of a sect that worships Dorje Shugden, a deity its devotees revere as a protector. The Dalai Lama
discourages the practice, advising his followers that Dorje Shugden is a malevolent spirit. The Shugden worshippers accuse the
Tibetan spiritual leader of persecuting them for their beliefs.
This quarrel was once confined to the temples and monasteries of the remote Tibetan plateau and exile communities in India. But
it has now been exported to the streets and stadiums of North America, Europe and Australia.
Tibetan and foreign protesters say the demonstrations are organized by an umbrella group called the International Shugden
Community, which in the United States is registered as a charity in California. Members of this group say they are fighting purely
for religious freedom and deny China plays a role in the demonstrations.
"There is no connection at all between Dorje Shugden and the Communist Party," said Nicholas Pitts, a Hong Kong-based
spokesman for the International Shugden Community who frequently appears at its protests.
But a leaked internal Communist Party document shows that China is intervening in the dispute. The party document, issued to
officials last year, said the Shugden issue is “an important front in our struggle with the Dalai clique”.
A monk and prominent former member of the Shugden movement who was based in India and Nepal, Lama Tseta, told Reuters
that China paid him and others to plan and coordinate the activities of the sect’s followers overseas. Tseta said officials from the
Communist Party’s powerful political special-operations unit, the United Front Work Department, control the effort and allocate
funding. These officials direct the protests through senior Shugden monks in China and the Tibetan exile community in India and
the West, who are the spiritual leaders of the sect, he said.
“The Chinese are using them as a tool to make the Dalai Lama look fake, to achieve their own ends, to undermine Tibetan
Buddhism and to fragment Tibetan society,” Tseta said in an interview.