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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Death toll in Tibet protests rises

March 16, 2008

'State of siege' in capital city injures dozens China threatens harsh response

Washington Post
March 15, 2008

BEIJING - Hundreds of protesters swarmed Tibet's capital yesterday,
clashing with police and setting fire to shops and cars in a spasm of
violence worse than any there in nearly 20 years.
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Doctors reported dozens of injured streaming into hospitals, and there
were reports of several deaths as Lhasa descended into what one
witness called "a state of siege."

China's Xinhua News Agency said seven people have been confirmed dead
and that "most of the victims were business people," Reuters reported.
Xinhua earlier said no foreigners had been hurt in the violence.

By nightfall, armored personnel carriers had rolled into the center of
the city. "The army is everywhere," said one hotel worker, who added
that he was afraid to go outside.

The violence occurred after five days of escalating protests against
Chinese rule in the remote mountainous region, the heart of Tibetan
Buddhism. The confrontations, initially led by monks, were joined
yesterday by hundreds of Tibetan civilians, who began attacking shops
owned by ethnic Han and Hui Chinese.

Street fights between Tibetans and Chinese continued into the night,
according to reports from the region.

The crisis exposed the anger Tibetans have long felt but rarely were
able to express openly over Chinese domination. Although ethnic
Chinese are a minority in Tibet, they are far better off economically.
Tibetans also resent efforts by Beijing to bind their homeland to the
rest of the country - including the recent opening of a luxury train
line to funnel tourists to Lhasa.

The Chinese government must now confront a significant political
challenge as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games in August.
Authorities have steadfastly attempted to project an image of harmony
and stability in Tibet and elsewhere even as they have tightened their
grip over the region.

In some of the strongest words yet from officials, Champa Phunstok,
regional Tibet government head, warned early today that the
authorities will "deal harshly with these criminals who are carrying
out activities to split the nation," the Associated Press reported.

The protests, which began Monday in Lhasa, spread yesterday - not only
in Lhasa but elsewhere. Up to 4,000 ethnic Tibetans marched in the
northwestern Chinese province of Gansu. A Tibetan rights group
reported that that protest had also turned violent.

In India, police clashed with scores of pro-Tibet protesters near the
Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, arresting dozens of them. Police
scuffled with about 1,000 protesters, including dozens of Buddhist
monks, during a rally in Nepal's capital of Katmandu in support of
demonstrators in Tibet. About 12 monks were injured.

Images captured on cellphone cameras and posted on the Internet showed
protesters burning Chinese flags and running through the streets of
Lhasa shouting independence slogans.

The pictures also revealed how the once-small city, home to several of
the most sacred sites of Tibetan Buddhism, has been transformed by
years of intense development, often benefiting the Han Chinese who
have settled there in the tens of thousands.

"This spiraling unrest has triggered the scenario the Chinese prayed
would not happen," said Robbie Barnett, director of modern Tibetan
studies at Columbia University. "They have left no one in place with
any credibility who can come out on the streets and talk to these

The US Embassy in Beijing, citing "firsthand reports" of gunfire in
Lhasa, issued an alert that warned tourists in the city to stay inside
and avoid "unnecessary movements."

China heavily restricts travel to Tibet, making it difficult to
independently verify developments there. Sources reached by phone
declined to identify themselves for fear of government reprisal.

A doctor at the Tibet Autonomous Region People's Hospital said he had
received 41 wounded. An official at the People's Hospital of Lhasa
said there were many wounded there, but gave no details. The wounded
continued coming as night fell even after police imposed a curfew, one
doctor said.

European Union leaders urged China to show restraint. A White House
spokesman said Beijing "needs to respect Tibetan culture" and "needs
to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama," the Tibetan spiritual leader,
whom the Chinese have accused of inciting the protests.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, issued a statement
accusing China of using brute force to impose its culture on Tibetans.
"These protests are a manifestation of the deep-rooted resentment of
the Tibetan people under the present governance," he said. "I,
therefore, appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop using force and
address the long-simmering resentment."

The Tibet government called the violence an act of sabotage that had
been "organized, premeditated, and masterminded by the Dalai clique,"
the government-controlled New China News Agency reported.

Tibetan exile groups and activists have vowed to intensify their "Free
Tibet" campaigns in the run-up to the Olympics.
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