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China Says Lhasa Stable After Monks Hold Rallies

March 14, 2008

Beijing, March 13 (AFP)- China said Thursday the situation in the
Tibetan capital Lhasa was stable after what rights groups described as
the biggest protests there against Chinese rule in nearly 20 years.

"In the past couple of days, a few monks in Lhasa have made some
disturbances in an effort to cause unrest," foreign ministry spokesman
Qin Gang told reporters when asked about the protests.

"Thanks to the efforts of the local government and the democratic
administration of the temples, the situation in Lhasa has been

Qin refused to give details, but pro-Tibet independence groups said
hundreds of Buddhist monks and others had demonstrated Monday and
Tuesday on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

The pro-Tibet groups and Amnesty International said tear gas and
electric prods had been used to disperse protesters, while up to 50
monks had been detained.

The London-based Free Tibet Campaign also reported that protests had
spread outside the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region to neighboring
Chinese provinces with significant ethnic Tibetan populations.

In one such protest, 400 monks demonstrated at the Lutsang monastery
in Qinghai province on Tuesday calling for the return of exiled
spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, according to the Free Tibet Campaign.

The protests in Lhasa and nearby coincided with demonstrations in
India and elsewhere around the world by Tibetans who are seeking to
pressure China over its rule of the Himalayan region ahead of the
Beijing Olympics in August.

"The reports of protests outside Lhasa show that Tibetans know the
eyes of the world are upon them and are determined not to let the
momentum drop," Free Tibet Campaign spokesman Matt Whitticase said.

"Tibetans inside Tibet are aware that Tibetans in India are marching
towards the Tibet border and have been emboldened by the support they
are receiving from across the world."

The International Campaign for Tibet said the recent protests in Lhasa
were the biggest there by monks since a wave of pro-independence
protests in 1989.

Amnesty International condemned what it said was the harsh crackdown
by China's security forces on this week's protests.

"Demonstrators have a right to protest peacefully," Amnesty Asia
Pacific deputy program director Tim Parritt said in a statement.

"China violates international human rights standards in denying their
freedom of assembly and freedom of expression."

China sent troops into Tibet in 1950, and officially began its rule
there a year later.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after the 1959 uprising and has since been
based in Dharamshala, India.

Chinese troops killed tens of thousands of Tibetans as they quashed
the uprising, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile's Web site.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin also condemned this week's protests in
India, in which 100 Tibetans have been trying to walk to Tibet in a
Mahatma Gandhi- style peaceful march.

Indian police arrested the protesters on Thursday but they vowed to
continue with their walk, which they said could take months.

"We're resolutely opposed to the Dalai Lama's group engaging in
separatist activities," Qin said when asked about the march in India.

Qin said China had received assurances from Indian officials that they
wouldn't support any "splittist" activities from the

The Dalai Lama hasn't given his blessing to the march, but on Monday
spoke out about what he said were China's "gross" human rights abuses
in his homeland.
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