Shortly after Chinese ambassador Zhang Yan thanked India for ensuring his embassy’s security, a group of Tibetan protesters scaled the high, spiked walls of the fortress-like mission, stormed the compound, and scuffled with staff and police.
The dramatic security breach in the heart of massively-guarded Chanakyapuri comes as an embarrassment for India, which has given sanctuary to the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers.
Despite heavy police presence and barricading, five members of a group of Tibetan protesters scaled the wall near the embassy’s gate number 7 on Panchsheel Marg and entered the cultural office in the compound on Friday evening. As embassy staff chased them around, they waved Tibetan flags and shouted slogans.
Police said 33 protesters, including eight women, had been detained. The activists said several Tibetans had been injured by a police baton-charge.
“The protesters scaled a four-foot-high wall. But alert policemen foiled any untoward incident, and they were arrested within minutes. The embassy’s main portion is about 500 metres away and more than two companies of police force are guarding the establishment,” Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.
The immediate fallout of the breach was a further tightening of security. The police now plan to close Panchsheel Marg altogether for the public. The Chinese have been asked to raise the embassy boundary wall higher.
Earlier in the day, came news that can only add to China’s woes on Tibet.
India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari is set to meet the Dalai Lama, India’s “honoured guest”, when he visits New Delhi over the weekend. The meeting between the Tibetan monk and a top Indian constitutional functionary is unlikely to thrill China, though Indian officials said the meeting was not intended to convey any “message” to Beijing.
China has directly blamed the Dalai Lama for instigating the anti-Chinese violence in Lhasa that has claimed at least a dozen lives, and denied his professed belief in non-violence as "hypocritical lies".
India has expressed "distress" at the violence, and urged "all those involved" to "work to improve the situation and remove the causes of such trouble in Tibet, through dialogue and non-violent means."
Ambassador Zhang on Friday expressed unhappiness over the meeting between the US Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Dalai Lama, warning "any country, any organization or any person" "meddling in its internal affairs." He cautioned the international community not to be misled by the "nice words" of the "Dalai clique."
"People say nice words but these should be supported by deeds," Zhang said. "I hope Indian friends see through the nature of his intention and not be misled and make correct statements based on facts and deeds, not words," he said. "He (the Dalai Lama) used non-violence to cheat the international community."
The Chinese envoy said he had "kept the Indian government informed on all developments in Lhasa."
"We attach importance to deeds, not words," Zhang said, when asked whether Beijing was willing to start a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Only if the Dalai Lama gives up all claims for independence and accepts "Tibet is an inalienable part of China" could such a meeting be considered, Zhang said.
To prove that the "Dalai clique," comprising the Dalai Lama and his followers outside China had "masterminded" the violence, the Chinese Embassy arranged the screening of a documentary highlighting how the violence was engineered in Lhasa on March 14.
With inputs by Vidya Krishnan