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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China Raids Homes and Businesses in Tibetan Capital

January 29, 2009

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, January 28, 2009; 11:32 AM

BEIJING, Jan. 28 -- Chinese authorities carrying out a "strike hard"
campaign in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa have raided thousands of homes
and businesses, run checks on 5,766 suspects and detained at least 81
people, including two for having reactionary music on their cellphones,
according to official reports and news accounts.

The state-controlled Tibetan Daily, in a Sunday report, and the Lhasa
Evening News last week said the campaign targets criminal activity such
as burglary, prostitution and theft, and is needed to uphold the city's
social order. But experts and activists who support greater autonomy for
Tibet said the motive behind the campaign, which began Jan. 18, is to
detain those involved in last spring's riots and warn off others who
support Tibetan independence.

Chinese leaders are worried about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the
Tibetan Uprising. On March 10, 1959, Tibetans rose up against Chinese
rule, but the rebellion ended after 20 days with the flight of the Dalai
Lama into exile in India. Beijing-backed Tibetan lawmakers have proposed
a new holiday this year, on March 28, the day China announced the
dissolution of the Tibetan government, to mark the "liberation" of
Tibetan serfs.

Lhasa's entire investigative police force mobilized more than 600 people
and 160 vehicles to check 2,922 rented apartments or houses, 14 hotels
and guesthouses, 18 bars and 3 Internet cafes, the Lhasa Evening News
said, according to a translation e-mailed by the International Campaign
for Tibet, which advocates for more autonomy for the Himalayan region.
The police push follows 10 months of tight security after rioting broke
out March 14 last year, leading to the deaths of at least 18 civilians
and one police officer and sparking anti-government protests and a
massive government crackdown.

"Strike hard" campaigns have historically been launched in China to
fight crime and corruption. But in this case, the Tibetan Centre for
Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement, "the motive is to
intimidate and eliminate those supporting Tibetan independence and human
rights activists in Tibet."

The public security bureau in Lhasa said on Wednesday they had no
information and suggested other officials, whose telephones rang
unanswered. China is celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday this week.

Tens of thousands of armed police continued to patrol Lhasa on
Wednesday, said residents who were contacted by telephone. Some
speculated that the raids were deliberately timed just ahead of the
Lunar New Year. Some Tibetans have said they won't celebrate until the
return of the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing regards as a dangerous
separatist, while others said they prefer the Tibetan New Year, which
occurs next month, over the Chinese one.

"There are a lot of policeman patrolling with guns right now," said
Zhuoga, 24, a housekeeper at the Zhengchang Dongcuo International Youth
Hostel in Lhasa, who like most Tibetans uses only one name. "In each
alley and each intersection there are armed patrols. Before, even in the
winter, we were full, but right now our guests are far fewer."

Arwang, a monk living in Qinghai province who declined to name his
monastery for fear of reprisals, said: "This year, few Tibetans --
especially monks -- will celebrate the New Year." Asked why, he said,
"Can we not talk about this? Traditionally, some of us celebrate both
the Tibetan and Chinese New Years but this year we neither ate good food
nor lit firecrackers."

Zheng, a freshman at Chengdu University who was home for the winter
holiday working at her parent's cigarette and wine shop, did not expect
any trouble this year. "Some people say the riots might happen again
this year," she said. "But since security is so strict now, it's
impossible that anything horrible will happen."

Researcher Zhang Jie contributed to this report.
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