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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibetan monks in biggest protest against Chinese rule in 20 years

March 13, 2008

Jonathan Watts in Beijing
The Guardian, UK
March 12 2008

This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday March 12 2008 on
p24 of the International section. It was last updated at 03:51 on
March 12 2008.

Hundreds of Tibetan monks have taken to the streets of Lhasa in the
biggest protest against communist rule in almost two decades, it
emerged yesterday.

The show of defiance - which took place on the anniversary of a failed
anti-Chinese uprising in 1959 - raises tensions in the Himalayan
region as the world spotlight shifts to Beijing's often harsh rule
ahead of the Olympics. Chinese police arrested 50 to 60 monks,
according to Radio Free Asia. The government declined to confirm the
figures, but a spokesman confirmed a demonstration had taken place.

"In Lhasa city there were monks from some temples who, under the
instigation and encouragement of a small group of people, carried out
an illegal activity that threatened social stability," a foreign
ministry spokesman said. "We will continue to maintain social
stability in accordance with the law and strike hard against all
illegal, criminal activities."

Chinese authorities keep a tight grip on information from Tibet, but
reports suggest the protest was the largest since 1989, when martial
law was introduced by the then party secretary of Tibet, Hu Jintao,
now president.

According to overseas Tibetan groups, the demonstration started when
seven to 10 monks protested in front of the Jokhang, one of the
holiest sites in Tibetan Buddhism. A large crowd gathered to protect
them from People's Armed Police units, but they were detained. Soon
after up to 300 monks from Drepung monastery, just outside Lhasa,
marched in support, but they were stopped at heavily guarded
checkpoints, where dozens were detained. Armed police then surrounded
the main monasteries.

Champa Phuntsok, chairman of the Tibetan government, said the monks
were released and the matter resolved without incident. "It's really
nothing," he said. But Tibetan supporters overseas said the unrest
indicated the growing frustration at the lack of progress in talks
between the Dalai Lama and Beijing.

"For the first time since 1989, Chinese authorities face the
possibility of unrest in Sera and Drepung," said Kate Saunders of the
US-based International Campaign for Tibet. "Feelings are running
particularly high because it is Olympic year and the spotlight is on
China. Tibetans are more willing to take risks."

In India, about 100 refugees in Dharamsala - the home-in-exile of the
Dalai Lama - vowed to defy a police order to march on Tibet. In Nepal,
police used batons to break up a march on the Chinese embassy.
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