Some 70 people chanted Buddhist mantras in western San José Monday night to protest China’s recent crackdown on Tibetan rioters and criticize Costa Rica’s response to the violence.
The crackdown has alarmed practicing Buddhists and Tibet sympathizers in Costa Rica.
Gloriana Brenes, head of a Tibetan Buddhist center in La Guácima, northwest of San José, organized the march to call on Chinese authorities to renew dialogue with Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Brenes had planned to march to the Chinese Embassy, but the Public Security Ministry closed the streets for “security” reasons, according to ministry spokesman Jesús Ureña.
Holding candles and Tibetan flags, the protesters stood at the police blockades for nearly two hours and chanted, “Om mani padme hum,” a common Tibetan Buddhist prayer.
China flooded Tibet with security forces in mid-March to quell Tibetan rioters.
Tibetan exile groups said about 140 people died in ensuing clashes, while Chinese authorities put the number at 22, according to press reports.
Costa Rica has joined the United States and other European countries in calling for dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama, who wants greater autonomy but not secession from China.
France has condemned China and threatened to boycott this year’s Olympics in Beijing.
Brenes said President Oscar Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, two years before the Dalai Lama did, has not spoken strongly enough against human rights violations in Tibet.
“He has been tied because of his relations with the Chinese government,” Brenes said. “We are not really keeping our word of being a peaceful country and respecting nature and human rights.”
Costa Rica established diplomatic relations with China in June. China has given or promised significant aid and investment in disaster relief, education, energy development, research and sports, including a new national stadium.
Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno said he discussed human rights in a meeting with Chinese Ambassador Wang Xiaoyuan March 24, but he did not elaborate on the conversation or criticize China publicly.
“We must respect China’s territorial integrity, as well as the cultural and spiritual diversity of Tibet,” he said in late March.
Arias Foundation Cancels Dalai Lama Visit
The Dalai Lama had planned to visit Costa Rica in September to attend an event for Nobel Peace Prize laureates, organized by the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress.
But the foundation canceled the event after sending out invitations.
The foundation’s director, Luis Alberto Cordero, speaking through his assistant Victoria Solís, did not give a clear reason for the cancellation.