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CNN: Special Investigations Unit

Buddha's Warriors

Aired August 03, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The Olympic flame arrives in Beijing, for China's coming out party. President Hu Jintao holds up the torch. But what a torturous route has it been, from San Francisco to London.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I speak, someone is trying to grab the torch.

AMANPOUR: To Paris and beyond, every step of the way, this party has been crashed by protesters, playing David to China's goliath. And they are not alone. In Burma, ordinary monks stand up to one of the world's most brutal military regimes. They are a new breed of rebel, armed with nothing but their faith. They are Buddha's warriors.

(on camera): Throughout the Buddhist world, the religions founder is depicted in a peaceful trance, apparently impervious to all of our troubles and traumas. But today his followers are on the march. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Join me and explore this profound dilemma. How do people, who are committed to love, kindness, and non-violence, confront severe political oppression?

(voice-over): In March, I traveled to the heart of the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, India, where we heard these unlikely warriors were gearing up for an epic struggle. Hundreds of Buddhist monks have hiked across the Himalayas from Tibet, and thousands more have come from monasteries in India to hear the Dalai Lama teach.

(on camera): Are you going to see the Dalai Lama?


AMANPOUR: You're looking forward? Yes?

(voice-over): To his followers, the Dalai Lama is the 14th reincarnation of a long line of holy monks who had ruled Tibet for centuries. Their religion was founded in ancient India, by a spiritual teacher known as Buddha. For these true believers, the Dalai Lama is the human manifestation of one of the most popular Buddhist deities, the Buddha of compassion.

So, the Dalai Lama's devoted flock have come bearing good wishes and precious gifts.

(on camera): Bottle lamps, compass, scriptures...


AMANPOUR: ...brocades, all of their precious belongings, and they get just a little glimpse of the Dalai Lama.

(voice-over): Much of what's offered here is then given away to charity, a gesture that helps bind the Dalai Lama to his scattered people.

(on camera): These thousands of monks have gathered here for what's called a long life ceremony for the Dalai Lama. He is, after all, the embodiment of Tibet's spiritual and political aspirations.

(voice-over): Today, we have seen people who have really revered you, their faces, people are crying. Are you the reincarnation of the Buddha of compassion?

DALAI LAMA: If you ask me whether I am reincarnation of some higher being, like some Buddha or like that, and I will say no.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Can you explain what you are?

DALAI LAMA: I'm firstly a human being.


DALAI LAMA: There's no doubt, 100 percent sure. Then, second, I'm simple Buddhist monk.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): He is not so simple, of course, like the 13 Dalai Lamas before him. He's been at the center of the struggle for control of Tibet. For hundreds of years, the Dalai Lamas have wielded spiritual and symptoms political power, as long as they acknowledge imperial China as their ultimate master.

The collapse of China's last "dynasty" destructed that pattern. And for almost 40 years, Tibet ruled itself. But in 1950, shortly after Chinese communist forces triumphed, they invaded Tibet to reassert their ancient claim. For nine years, the Dalai Lama lived under communist rule, until the people rebelled, and he fled on horseback to India, across the Himalayas.

DALAI LAMA: Around 10:00 p.m., I left, disguised as a soldier with one rifle, and then the next few hours very dangerous.

AMANPOUR: The Dalai Lama escaped, but Tibet's Buddhist culture did not. During Chairman Mao's infamous Cultural Revolution, red guards smashed temples and traditions all across China.

Tibetans say 6,000 of their monasteries were obliterated. Only 13 were left standing. When China opened up to the world in the 1980s, it did allow Tibet to rebuild its monasteries, but it kept them under strict communist control. Here in Dharamsala, we watched the Dalai Lama tell his side of his story to his visitors, including these high school students from the United States.

DALAI LAMA: Everything is controlled by Han Chinese, who has no idea about Tibetan culture, about Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, they consider Tibetan Buddhism is a dangerous thing.

AMANPOUR (on camera): I heard you say to the people, you said, "we're dying." What did you mean by that?

DALAI LAMA: Since Chinese Army entered Tibet, a lot of damage, a lot of destruction. Plus the population, Tibetan population, now becoming minority. Whether intentionally, or unintentionally, some kind of culture genocide is taking place.

AMANPOUR: Cultural genocide?

DALAI LAMA: That's right. Present situation is our Tibetan nation actually facing death. In the name of liberation, I like that.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): His laughter seems puzzling, until you understand that the Buddhist way is to find humor in all human folly.

DALAI LAMA: Usually I describe Buddhist culture or compassions culture, culture of peace, it's really worthwhile to preserve.

AMANPOUR: For nearly 50 years of exile, the Dalai Lama has fought to preserve that culture. But he stopped short of demanding Tibet outright independence. Instead, he's asked only that Tibetans be allowed to rule themselves while staying part of China.

DALAI LAMA: Our approach, firstly, is strictly non-violent approach. Secondly, not seeking separation, but genuine autonomy.

AMANPOUR: But even that's too much for the Chinese government, which has vilified the Dalai Lama, and cracked down on rebellious monks for the last two decades. Monks have been forced to swear allegiance to China and denounce the Dalai Lama, and many like Ngawang Dispel refused. He spent seven years in prison, before escaping here to Dharamsala.

NGAWANG DISPEL, BUDDHIST MONK (through translator): We shouted independence for Tibet. Chinese go home. Long live the Dalai Lama.

AMANPOUR (on camera): What did they do?

DISPEL (through translator): On the way to prison they beat me on the head, and I began bleeding so badly. My shoes filled up with blood.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Chinese government refused our repeated requests for an interview, or to let us see what's happening in Tibet.

(on camera): Why is it that the Buddhist monks in Tibet take such a risk and pay such a heavy price for being basically politically active?

DISPEL (through translator): Because we can't practice our religion. They force us to denounce our spiritual guide, the Dalai Lama. Our monasteries are surrounded by the Chinese Army, and inside there are spies and officials who make us attend political meetings. If the young monks don't protest soon, there will be nothing left.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And protest is exactly what many young Tibetan monks are doing. When we return, the Dalai Lama confronts his unruly flock. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: In Dharamsala, India, Tibet's traditions merge with today's politics. The Dalai Lama's official state oracle is going into a trance. He speaks a language only a few monks can understand. But officials tell us he delivers an important political message, advising the Dalai Lama to continue his conciliatory approach to China.

But there are a growing number of young monks here who are no longer satisfied with that so-called middle way.

(on camera): There are a lot of young Tibetans here who feel that you have been taken advantage of, and they are so eager to get an autonomous or free Tibet, and they want a direct action.

DALAI LAMA: Their stand is complete independence. Not only youth, but even old people now are very critical about our approach. Yes, I understand. But then, our issue is you cannot solve by strong emotional feeling. It's difficult. We have to accept the reality. How much we can do?


AMANPOUR: Lhasang Tsering is a mentor to many young Tibetan exiles who are frustrated with the Dalai Lama's approach.

LHASANG TSERING: Tibet was not and will not be a part of China.

This middle-man policy is unrealistic and unacceptable. The Chinese came to Tibet to stay for their interest. So, until and unless we can throw them out, they're not going to walk away.

AMANPOUR: But how asks the Dalai Lama.

DALAI LAMA: What is their method to get independence? No clear answer, even using some forces, or some violent method. So, I argue, how to get weapons. No answer, no clear answer.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): To his critics, the Dalai Lama is equally unrealistic.

(on camera): You've had these dialogues with the Chinese. They're insulting you. They say you want to bring back feudalism to China. So, what is your way bringing for the Tibetan people?

DALAI LAMA: There are a lot of new buildings, a lot of roads, including railroad link. These are positive. Tibet is a backward country. No Tibetan wants backwardness. We want more modernized Tibet.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And China has invested billions modernizing Tibet. It's built this new railroad linking it to Beijing. But Lhasang Tsering complains the rail link nearly makes it easier to colonize Tibet. Ethnic Chinese are now the majority in Tibet's capital, Lhasa.

LHASANG TSERING: I have called that it will be the final nail in the coffin.

AMANPOUR: Why is that?

LHASANG TSERING: Because the railway is now no longer busloads. It's trainloads of Chinese immigrants coming in.

AMANPOUR: And why not, say many Chinese?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): First of all, Tibet is an inseparable part of China. I think the cause of this trouble is the lust for power of the Dalai Lama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Here in Beijing people are very angry about the people causing all this trouble.

VICTOR GAO, CHINA NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: As a matter of fact, Tibet is as much a part of China as, for example, Texas is a part of the United States.

AMANPOUR: Victor Gao is a director of China's Association of International Studies.

GAO: To condemn the construction of a major railway project is basically ridiculous, because what Tibetans need most is to have free access to other parts of China and to other parts of the world.

The reality is that the life expectancy of the Tibetans have increased from about 35 years to about 67 years old. And living standards in Tibet have improved substantially over the past 50 years. These are the facts.

AMANPOUR: But Lhasang Tsering refuses to accept Tibet's current status. And to win Tibet's freedom, he's even willing to abandon the Buddhist principle of non-violence.

LHASANG TSERING: There is a price for freedom, and the price for freedom is not paid in silver and gold. It is paid in the currency of life and blood. Let us be honest about it. This is a struggle for survival. And here we have no choices. It's do or die.

AMANPOUR (on camera): What about killing people? Is that what you plan to do?

LHASANG TSERING: The intention will not be to take life, but we are realistic enough to accept that there will be loss of life on both sides.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): When we return, it's not just Tibetans who are willing to put their lives on the line. In Burma, monks are on the front lines, against a powerful autocratic regime.


AMANPOUR: Pyinnyar Zawta is a fugitive, one of the monks who led a fight for democracy last fall in Burma, also known as Myanmar. When Burma's rulers, the military junta, cracked down on his movement, Zawta fled to this small apartment in neighboring Thailand. It's become his safe haven and his prison.

(on camera): What would happen to you if you went back now?

PYINNYAR ZAWTA, ALL BURMA MONKS ALLIANCE (through translator): My friends who know I'm on the border say don't come back, because they are still hunting for you. If I went back to Burma, I'd be arrested.

AMANPOUR: Just arrested?

ZAWTA: Arrest means beating, torture, starvation, those things automatically follow.

AMANPOUR: Ashin Kovida is another monk who hiding out in Thailand. Buddhist monks are all about kindness and love and they are not political normally. Why did the monks start to lead the protests?

ASHIN KOVIDA, BUDDHIST MONK (through translator): Since the time of Buddha, monks have relied on donations from the people so they could see for themselves how oppression was making them poor.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): For centuries, Burma's Buddhist monks have begun each day fanning out in long columns across the country, offering people the chance to pour food into their begging bowls. Those who donate aren't looking for thanks. They believe they'll be rewarded in the next life. But in recent years, the monks had noticed a drastic change.

KOVIDA: We saw many children begging for food at our monastery, scavenging in the rubbish, when they should be in school.

AMANPOUR: A third of Burma's children are malnourished, a tenth now die before their fifth birthday. All this in a country once known as Asia's rice bowl.

KOVIDA: Why are the people so poor, if our country is so rich in timber, jewels and gas? It's the fault of the military dictatorship, that's why we try to topple the military regime.

AMANPOUR: It all started last summer, when the government suddenly stopped subsidizing the cost of fuel, and overnight, it doubled, as did the price of food. So Buddhist monks, believers in non-violence, took on Burma's brutal military junta.

(on camera): You have a secret insurgency. The world is not used to seeing monks in this role as struggling against a military regime.

KOVIDA: Although we use clandestine tactics, we never result to violence or terrorism. Monks can only march and pray for peace.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The monks decided to stage a religious boycott. Their upturned begging bowls were a dramatic signal to the junta that they were refusing their donations. In effect, they were ex-communicating the regime. Young monks, like Gawdhida, whom I met in Thailand, led the charge.

GAWDHIDA, BUDDHIST MONK (through translator): We demanded that the government reduce food prices, apologize for attacking the monks, have a dialogue with all of Burma's ethnic groups and release all political prisoners like Aung San Suu Kyi, those are our four demands.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years. Her crime winning Burma's last democratic elections in 1990. For one brief moment last September, she appeared at her door to greet the marching monks.

(on camera): What were you asking the people to do, the monks and the protesters?

GAWDHIDA: I shouted "don't be afraid, or you will die twice. Demand your rights, but follow the rules of peace and kindness."

AMANPOUR (voice-over): When the soldiers began encircling the marchers, monks like Gawdhida, struggled to maintain their non-violent ways.

Do you remember the words you used?

GAWDHIDA: "May all living beings live in happiness and peace, and stop torturing each other."

AMANPOUR: But those words fell on deaf ears. Gawdhida was struck across the head with a rifle butt.

GAWDHIDA: I tried to control myself, because Buddha said if violence is used against you, don't respond with anger. Respond with love.

AMANPOUR: The soldiers responded with live fire.

GAWDHIDA: When they shot into the crowd, I was speaking on the megaphone and with real bullets flying around, what can we do? We all ran away.

AMANPOUR (on camera): You're a man of peace. Your whole religion is based on love. What did you feel when you saw fellow monks and fellow citizens dead in the streets after the crackdown?

KOVIDA: When they started shooting, I wanted to cry. Even though I've spent a lifetime meditating. That period was a nightmare, like a living hell.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Suddenly, the monks who were Burma's moral leaders became the regime's most wanted criminals.

(on camera): Did you disguise yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MONK: I began wearing glasses. Then I started wearing a crucifix.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Gawdhida also disguised himself as a ticket collector on a bus heading to the border.

(on camera): What would have happened to you if you were sent back to Burma? GAWDHIDA: I might have been finished. I might have been killed.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): When we return, disaster strikes, when Cyclone Nargis smashes into Burma. Buddha's warriors step into the breach.


AMANPOUR: It's been nearly a year since Burma cracked down against its monks, many of whom fled here to the Thai border, where, among the many Buddhist monuments, I found a memorial to torture, run by Burmese political activist Bo Kyi. He showed me what the regime was capable of.

BO KYI, ASSOCIATION FOR POLITICAL PRISONERS: This is intentionally punishment to prisoners if someone is caught --

AMANPOUR: Were you imprisoned?

KYI: I myself spent seven years in prison. I used to wear this for at least two times.


Bo Kyi has been documenting those who were killed or arrested in last September's uprising.

KYI: He is a student, just only 15-years-old.

AMANPOUR: Shot to death?

KYI: He was shot to death before his school. Also that man, he is beat on it death.

AMANPOUR: Do you know how many people were killed?

KYI: So many we believe over 100 might be killed during crackdown.

AMANPOUR: On any given day, Burmese traders cross back and forth on this river, coming to sell their goods over here. This river is all that separates Thailand from the secretive world of Burma.

Myanmar's military government has not responded to CNN's requests for an interview. Because journalists are not welcome in Burma, we sent in an undercover team, posing as tourists. We found a veil of secrecy had descended across the land. The same temples and monuments where the daily protests had begun are now shrouded in fear. None of the monks who had taken part would talk openly to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When evening came, so did the soldiers, and that's when many monks were brutally attacked. We have both young and old monks here, and we're afraid for their safety.

AMANPOUR: Despite the heavy hand of repression, the monks have vowed to continue their peaceful fight against the regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): The traditional ties between the people and the monks compel us to continue the struggle. We will do it again. Soon, there will be another interruption because the monks won't let their movement die. People are afraid of informers and arrests, but they'll protest again.

AMANPOUR: The regime maintains its state of fear by deploying these not-so-secret police agents. They record and photograph any unsanctioned political activity, like this rally by supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi. Protesters demand her release. Instead, the junta extended her detention, and continued their iron grip. But there are still those who refuse to be intimidated.

LU MAW: My name is Lu Maw, Moustache Lu Maw. Here is my brother number one, Moustache Par Par Lay.

AMANPOUR: They are a comedy troop called the Moustache Brothers. They lampoon the junta and they laugh at all they suffered. This moustache brother served five years of hard labor and last September, he was arrested again for marching with the monks.

MAW: Par Par Lay here? Most wanted. Par Par Lay most wanted. Drop dead, get lost.

AMANPOUR: But behind their antics, their message is serious.

MAW: We want freedom. Our artists don't have freedom. Freedom to joke, to write, to worship. I want real freedom.

AMANPOUR: But how to win freedom against a heavily armed military junta prepared even to gun down its own people? How will you change the regime with its guns and its troops and its trucks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think that monks are imprisoned, tortured and killed. But now the whole world knows what's going on in Burma.

AMANPOUR: On May 3rd, a massive natural disaster exposed Burma's man- made tragedy. Cyclone Nargis killed more than 80,000 people. And for weeks, the regime blocked international aid from reaching the victims, for fear that foreign intervention might trigger the junta's overthrow.

When the waters receded, the Burmese military that were so quick to put down protests, was nowhere to be seen. The first food and shelter for these desperate villagers came from the monks, and from their monasteries. From his exile, Monk Gaudita (ph) told us the military's misdeeds will come back to haunt them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): One day, they will pay for what they have done, because Buddha said, whatever you do, good or bad, follows you. So bad karma will follow them.

AMANPOUR: Gaudita (ph) and the other monks toss coins into this Buddhist shrine to make their wishes come true. What is he wishing for? What does he want?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May he get freedom in short time.

AMANPOUR: May he get freedom in short time?


AMANPOUR: But the coin missed its mark.

When BUDDHA'S WARRIORS returns, Tibetan monks take their fight to the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chinese army and the police will slowly learn that they cannot fight these non-violent army.


AMANPOUR: The mighty Himalayan Mountains separate Tibet from Dharamsala, India, and 100,000 exiles from their homeland. Among them, a young activist named Tenzin Tsundue.

TENZIN TSUNDUE, WRITER/ACTIVIST: I was actually born on a roadside in a tent.

AMANPOUR: So you were lucky to survive.

TSUNDUE: Yes, but this is how we actually picked up the struggle in exile, and then his holiness actually taking the leadership in starting Tibetan schools, recreating the monasteries.

AMANPOUR: For nearly 50 years, they've been trying to recreate their homeland. There are prayer flags, forever fluttering in the wind. And there is this path, like the sacred one that winds around the Dalai Lama's Potala Palace back in Lhasa. Tenzin, what does this path symbolize?

TSUNDUE: These actually represents the symbol of the struggle that we are fighting for, something that is Tibet. The core Buddhist idea, let the world heal out of violence and the hatred and the anger. Although we can not go to Tibet, we belong to the idea of Tibet.

AMANPOUR: Tsundue belongs to a new generation of Tibetans struggling to reconcile their devotion to the Dalai Lama with their deep desire to win Tibet's freedom.

There is difference between you and the Dalai Lama, because he's talked about autonomy and you're talking about independence.

TSUNDUE: There is a difference that I see especially among the younger generation of Tibetans who are saying no compromise on independence.

AMANPOUR: That could take another 50 years.

TSUNDUE: No, it's not going to take 50 years. It's going to take, I'll tell you, 15, 20 years, Tibet will be free.

AMANPOUR: Isn't that wishful thinking?

TSUNDUE: If this disease of nonviolence can spread, it can spread in China.

AMANPOUR: Tsundue began his one-man campaign of non-violence long before this Olympic protest season, seizing the spotlight whenever a Chinese leader would visit India.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the dramatic moment under the sun. Tenzin Tsundue on top of the Institute of Science Building hosting the freedom banner.

AMANPOUR: There must have been security around there, it must have been difficult to get up there.

TSUNDUE: It's basically a Tom and Jerry game.

AMANPOUR: Tom and Jerry?

TSUNDUE: Tom and Jerry game and the mouse is always clever.

AMANPOUR: And these are the mice, monks, preparing to march 800 miles from Dharamsala to Tibet in time, for the Beijing Olympics.

TSUNDUE: They would be sure that this one China, civilized, beautiful country, developed country. The other half is the deprivation of freedom to all these people.

AMANPOUR: And once you get to the border, are they going to invite you in?

TSUNDUE: Right at the border, we are going to be, like the situation that I'm in front of a tiger. So what will the tiger do?

AMANPOUR: Tsundue is preparing to meet the tiger by teaching a small army of marchers the art of non-violent protest, along with New York- based activist Lhadon Tethong.

LHADON TETHONG, STUDENTS FOR A FREE TIBET: First scenario is you are at a protest, a Tibetan protest and some Chinese government leaders, they walk by. Some people begin to yell and hurl abuse and saying "China out of Tibet" and "Chinese, running dogs," do you join them? Is it a violent or a non-violent act?

AMANPOUR: And that's the critical question these monks are about to debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Saying these things at a protest is not violence. Sometimes we even insult our own friends, not from hatred but from love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): But saying derogatory things can also cause harm. From a Buddhist point of view, violence can be verbal.

TETHONG: They're so open and they engage in debate so easily. I mean, it's like this in Tibet, too, the monasteries are our universities. AMANPOUR: Monk Gedun Gyatso spent three years in a Chinese prison after he and other monks refused to denounce the Dalai Lama. He said his sentence was extended when they found a picture of the Dalai Lama in his cell.

GEDUN GYATSO, BUDDHIST MONK (through translator): They beat me so badly that my cell mates had to force food in my mouth, because I couldn't chew, but I don't regret it because I did it for my country.

AMANPOUR: And he wants to do it again. In the last class of the day, he's learning to resist arrest. Lhadon makes no apologies for stage managing the monk's message.

TETHONG: Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, the movements that they led were very carefully planned and executed. Rosa Parks didn't just sit down on a bus one day and say I'm not going to move, sort of on a whim. She was trained.

AMANPOUR: These monks hope by protesting outside Tibet they'll spark an uprising inside their homelands.

Do you not worry that creating this mass movement, even if it's non- violent, could have terrible repercussions for the Tibetans inside?

TSUNDUE: Non-violence has such a power. You can change other people's minds for a peaceful solution, and Chinese army and the police have ever repeated they maybe will slowly learn that they cannot fight these non-violent army.

AMANPOUR: His theory is about to be tested, much sooner than he expected, inside Tibet itself. When we come back, the Chinese government cracks down.


AMANPOUR: On March 10th every year, Tibetan monks in Dharamsala, India, mark a sad anniversary. They remember the day 49 years ago that the Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile. But as he leaves this ceremony, the young Turks who challenge him take center stage, even a few who question the success of the nonviolent way.

TSEWANG RIGZIN, TIBETAN YOUTH CONGRESS: And I urge once again, every single Tibetan to rise up.

AMANPOUR: But Tsundue and his army of marching monks remain committed to the peace and will now put their training to the test as they start their trek to Tibet.

TSINDUE: With a beautiful smile and the face of the monk walking. This silence is the one that is actually challenging China.

AMANPOUR: But they are also challenging the Dalai Lama, who has repeatedly said that he doesn't oppose the Beijing Olympics.

Do you support the marches that are being planned from here, Dharamsala, to Tibet? DALAI LAMA: Right from the beginning, we fully committed about democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of movement. It is morally wrong to stop them, but sometimes it's too much enthusiasm, too much emotion.

AMANPOUR: That enthusiasm and emotion is about to pit these exiles against the Indian police, who soon tell the marchers they can't even leave this state.

GYATSO: I think they may be getting some pressure from China, but I am not scared. I am determined to go on no matter what.

AMANPOUR: That same night, monk Gyatso's determination is bolstered by news from inside Tibet.

GYATSO: I heard hundreds of monks in Tibet protested today and some were badly beaten. The reason for their protest is exactly the same as ours.

AMANPOUR: At the end of another day, their spirits are as high as ever. But every night of camping, every day of marching brings them closer to the state line, the one the Indian government said they couldn't cross. Tenzin Tsundue was the first to be arrested. Every one of the 100 marchers was taken away by the Indian police. The monks chanted their prayers and maintained their discipline and stayed nonviolent just as they were trained to. After their release, the monks continued walking for another 100 days before they were stopped again within sight of Tibet. Organizers declared the march over but a small group, including monk Gyatso vowed to continue their movement.

Inside Tibet, the peaceful protest took an ominous turn. On March 14th, roving vans of Tibetan youth attacked Chinese residents of Lhasa and torched their businesses. Eighteen civilians and a police officer were killed, according to Chinese reports.

The uprising spread like wildfire throughout the Tibetan plateau. The Chinese government appeared stunned. But it soon cracked down harshly, firing on protestors. China denies killing anyone. But Tibet's government in exile claims over 200 people died. These are some of the victims, say human rights' monitors. The Chinese insisted that the Dalai Lama's group instigated the riots, but offered no proof. The Dalai Lama denies their charge and was distraught.

DALAI LAMA: If violence becomes out of control, then only my option is to resign.

AMANPOUR: The monks we talked to after the riots said they disagreed with those who turned to violence, but said they could understand why they had.

In May, China was struck by a massive earthquake and almost 70,000 people were killed. The world's press, including CNN, were allowed to cover the disaster. But our repeated request to travel to Tibet for this report or to interview Chinese officials in Beijing, Washington or right here at the United Nations has been denied. The Olympic torch did make it to Tibet and officials there said public order has been restored. The Dalai Lama's people told us Tibet is under a climate of terror.

This sad eulogy for the Tibetan people was sang by these young women while they were imprisoned, where they say they were beaten and sent to solitary confinement for their defiant devotion to the Dalai Lama.

And with all of this, you prayed to the Chinese gods.

NYIDON, EX-POLITICAL PRISONER (through translator): They are humans like us and life is too short to spend it inflicting harm and leaving such sinful life. If you show compassion for others, you become a happier person, so I prayed for them.

AMANPOUR: The Dalai Lama believes his most powerful weapon is compassion and kindness, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

DALAI LAMA: We are fully committed to the non-violent way. Real Buddhist ideology, that means everything independent, interconnected. So if you harm others, you get suffering. If you help others, you get benefit, you get happiness. So that's the essence of Buddhism.

AMANPOUR: What did you feel when you felt the Dalai Lama here?

NYIMA, EX-POLITICAL PRISONER (through translator): I felt so happy to see his holiness and then I though of all the Tibetans in prison and outside who pray to see them every day. Now whenever I see his holiness, I see the people of Tibet.