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China sends 80 truckloads of troop reinforcements toward Tibet

March 21, 2008

BEIJING, March 20, 2008 (Canadian Press) — China is sending hundreds of
additional paramilitary police to Tibet and restive neighbouring
provinces with large Tibetan populations.

At least 80 trucks loaded with security police have been spotted
travelling along the main road winding through the mountains into
southeastern Tibet.

Meanwhile, other security troops have set up camp and are patrolling in
riot gear and, in some cases with rifles, in the area above Tiger
Leaping Gorge, a tourist attraction that usually sees little unrest.

Witnesses say such scenes are being repeated across far-flung towns and
villages in Tibetan areas of adjacent provinces to reassert control as
sporadic demonstrations continued to flare.

Foreigners have been barred from travelling there and tour groups have
been banned from Tibet, isolating a region about four times the size of

Protests against Chinese rule started peacefully in Tibet's capital,
Lhasa, early last week, but erupted into riots last Friday, drawing a
harsh response from Chinese authorities. Authorities say 16 people have
been killed, but Tibetan exile groups claim more than 80 have died.

The moved to send in additional troops, along with reports of more
arrests in Lhasa, came even as the Dalai Lama offered face-to-face
negotiations with Chinese leaders.

China says the riots and protests were plotted from abroad by the Dalai
Lama, the exiled spiritual leader revered by Tibetans, and his supporters.

Speaking from the seat of his government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India,
the Dalai Lama reiterated that he was not seeking independence for Tibet.

He offered to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Chinese
leaders, though said he would not travel to Beijing unless there was a
"real concrete development."

"The whole world knows Dalai Lama is not seeking independence, one
hundred times, thousand times I have repeated this. It is my mantra - we
are not seeking independence," the 72-year-old Dalai Lama told reporters.

"The Tibet problem must be solved between Tibetan people and Chinese
people," he said.

At a tense news conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang
said the government suggested that foreign tourists stay out of western
Gansu and Sichuan provinces, the scene of additional clashes earlier
this week between Tibetan protesters and security forces.

After a long pause, he added: "But I shall assure you that our
government is fully capable of maintaining social stability and ensuring
the security of tourists."

In Sichuan's Aba county, a Tibetan woman reached by phone Thursday said
she had heard of numerous arrests of protesters in the area.

"There are many, many troops outside," she said. "I'm afraid to leave
the house," said the woman, who refused to give her name for fear of
retaliation by authorities.

Police were checking ID cards at checkpoints and could be heard shouting
for protesters to turn themselves in.

Troops blocked roads also in nearby Serthar, also in Sichuan, confining
residents to their homes, said a woman reached there by phone.
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