Monday, March 17, 2008

Tibetan unrest spreads despite massive show of force by China

Up to 80 protesters killed during rioting, aides to Dalai Lama say

Aileen Mccabe, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, March 17, 2008

SHANGHAI -- A massive show of strength by Chinese security officials appears to have restored an eerie calm in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, but the Dalai Lama said Sunday he feared the Chinese were intent on "cultural genocide" in Tibet.

Meanwhile, the anti-China protests spilled over into neighbouring Sichuan province Sunday, where there is a large Tibetan population. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said it had confirmed reports of eight deaths in Ngaba County "after armed troops shot indiscriminately into the peacefully protesting Tibetans."

It also reported a second day of protests by ethnic Tibetans in Lanzhou, in China's northwestern Gansu province. Aides to the Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters their unconfirmed reports put the death count from Friday's rioting in Lhasa eight times higher than the 10 "innocent civilian" deaths the Chinese government is acknowledging. The Dalai Lama said he had "grave concerns" about what really happened when Buddhist monks and their supporters clashed with the Chinese security forces on Friday.

The Dalai Lama called China's response to protests in Tibet 'cultural genocide.'

Speaking from his headquarters in Dharamshala, India, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate told reporters: "Whether intentionally or not, cultural genocide is taking place" in Tibet.

He said the Chinese "simply rely on using force to simulate peace, a peace brought by force using a rule of terror."

The holy man pleaded for an international investigation into Friday's riots in the vast Himalayan state.

The Chinese, meanwhile, continued to insist "a handful of monks" -- the "Dalai clique" -- incited the violence and is responsible for the deaths of innocent shopkeepers and hotel workers. They maintain security forces handled the dangerous situation appropriately.

Chinese troops moved to tackle more unrest in ethnic Tibetan enclaves today, as a deadline loomed for "troublemakers" who took part in protests in Lhasa.

"We are completely capable of protecting the security of the Tibet people. Right now the overall situation in Tibet is very good," the mayor of Lhasa, Doje Cezhug, said from Beijing, in remarks posted on the Tibet government's website.

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said senior official Sun Qian laid the blame for the unrest on a "scheme premeditated by the Dalai clique to separate Tibet from China and sabotage the normal, harmonious and peaceful life of people in Tibet."

Reuters reported that Wu Shuangzhan, commander of the People's Armed Police, said Sunday: "I can honestly tell you that none of the means we have adopted (in Lhasa) have exceeded the constitutional rights of the armed forces or international law."

Human rights groups around the world are skeptical. There are unconfirmed accounts of security forces using tear gas, cattle prods, live bullets and brute force to quell the demonstrations that began last Monday with a peaceful march by monks commemorating the 49th anniversary of a failed anti-Chinese demonstration in Tibet.

Reporters are not allowed into Tibet without special permission from Beijing and most of the foreign tourists who were providing eyewitness accounts of events earlier in the week have now been convinced by authorities to leave.

Up to 80 protesters killed during rioting, aides to Dalai Lama say
Aileen Mccabe, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, March 17, 2008
Tour operators say existing travel permits have been cancelled and tourists are no longer allowed to enter the region.

The Chinese Communists annexed Tibet in 1951 and since then have systematically moved Han Chinese into the mountainous region in what many see as an attempt to wipe out dissent among the native population.

There have been short stories in the Chinese media about demonstrations by the "Dalai Lama clique," saying the situation is now under control and state TV showed pictures of people cleaning up the debris on otherwise deserted streets in Lhasa.

Around the world, leaders have called on China to exercise restraint in Tibet and in several countries demonstrators have marched in sympathy with the Lhasa monks.

The reaction is exactly what Beijing does not want to see as it counts down to the opening of the Olympic Games in August.

The Beijing Games have taken on an importance here far beyond their value as a sporting event.

They are supposed to be China's "coming-out party," as the newly prosperous nation wants to reposition itself in the world and show itself off as a modern forward-looking state. And the last thing it wants is renewed concern over its human rights record to overshadow its "re-launch."

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