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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?"

Tibet tensions high as Olympic torch nears Beijing

March 31, 2008

Sun Mar 30, 2008
By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING, March 30 (Reuters) - Further unrest in Tibet's capital appeared
to have been sparked by attempts by police to carry out security checks,
indicating the tension and volatility remaining in Lhasa weeks after a
deadly anti-government riot.

It was unclear exactly what occurred in Lhasa on Saturday but a mobile
text message to residents from police said security checks carried out
earlier in the day had "frightened citizens" and caused panic in the
city centre.

Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet and Radio Free Asia
quoted witnesses as describing people "running in all directions and

It was not clear if the security check was in response to a protest, or
if the check itself caused the panic.

"Please obey the law and please follow the rules, don't create rumours,
don't believe rumours, don't spread rumours," read the text message,
which was reprinted by the Free Tibet Campaign and International
Campaign for Tibet.

"Severely battle any creation or any spreading of rumours that would
upset or frighten people or cause social disorder or illegal criminal
behaviour that could damage social stability," the message read.

The fresh tensions come as China prepares to receive the Olympic flame
in its capital Beijing on Monday, for the start of a domestic and
international relay that the government hoped would symbolise national
unity ahead of Games in August.

Instead, China finds itself deflecting criticism over its policies in
Tibet and its response to unrest there, and is facing the prospect of
weeks of protests as the Olympic flame circles the globe.

The unrest began with days of peaceful, monk-led protests in Lhasa that
spiralled into a citywide riot on March 14 that the government says
killed 18 civilians and was masterminded by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's
spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama, who fled China in 1959 after a failed uprising against
Chinese Communist rule, denies he is behind the unrest, which his
representatives say has claimed 140 lives.

Speaking in Laos on Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao repeated the
government's assertion that the Lhasa riot was "violent and criminal".

"They have hurt the interests of even Tibetan people," he told Hong Kong
television reporters.

"We hope governments everywhere and the media can approach and assess
this matter objectively and justly. The Chinese government has the
ability to solve this matter," Wen said.


The protests also spread to ethnic Tibetan areas of China.

In Sichuan province's Aba county, where police opened fire on protesters
a week ago, 26 suspects were detained for their involvement, the
state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Police seized guns, bullets, explosives and knives in Aba's Kirti
monastery, as well as Tibetan flags and banners advocating independence
for Tibet, the report said.

The Tibet Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, based in India, gave a
different account, saying more than 100 monks from the Kirti monastery
were detained and that police raided rooms.

In Gansu province, whose southern, heavily Tibetan areas saw widespread
unrest, notices were pasted on walls urging protesters to give
themselves up.

The paramilitary People's Armed Police manned frequent checkpoints in
the region, armed with riot shields and clubs and bayonets on their
rifles, a sign of ongoing tension in the area.

U.S. President George W. Bush has urged China to exercise restraint in
its response to the unrest and to meet representatives of the Dalai
Lama, against whom Chinese state media has been waging an intense
propaganda campaign.

"Dealing with such a person, who can blow hot and cold, the Chinese
government has shown the greatest patience," Xinhua said in a commentary
on Sunday. "It was the Dalai Lama clique that closed the door of
dialogue," it said.

A meeting of European Union foreign ministers also called on Saturday
for an end to violence in Tibet and urged dialogue on the region's
religious and cultural rights.

But in a joint text, the bloc avoided reference to the Beijing Games,
after a week of public differences over whether to boycott the opening
ceremony. (Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in Gansu and Tan Ee Lyn
in Hong Kong)
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