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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?"

Chinese troops surround monasteries in Tibet: rights group

March 14, 2008

BEIJING, 14 Mar (AFP) — Troops have surrounded the three biggest
monasteries in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, a rights group said Friday,
as fears mount of a severe crackdown following protests against
Chinese rule.

Chinese authorities have locked down the sites in the capital after a
third day of protests saw hundreds of Buddhist monks demonstrate, the
International Campaign for Tibet said.

It said monks at the Sera monastery in the capital were on hunger
strike, while there were also reports of the protests spreading to two
remote rural monasteries within Tibet.

"There is an intensifying atmosphere of fear and tension in Lhasa at
the moment," campaign spokeswoman Kate Saunders, who spoke to people
in Lhasa, told AFP.

The initial response by Chinese authorities had been more muted than
in the past, although they had already begun to question individual
monks, Saunders said from London.

Tourists have been prevented from entering the monasteries, the
campaign said in a statement.

Meanwhile the US government-funded Radio Free Asia said two monks from
the Drepung monastery were in a critical condition after they slit
their wrists in an apparent suicide attempt.

A spokesman for the Tibet Autonomous Region, who gave his name only as
Fu, denied there had been any arrests, or that monasteries had been
surrounded, or that protests had spread to rural Tibet.

He said the monasteries were open to tourists.

On Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang conceded
there had been protests in Lhasa, but said the situation had been
"stabilised."

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

Rights groups say these were the biggest protests in Tibet since a
wave of pro-independence demonstrations in 1989, when Chinese
authorities declared martial law in Lhasa to quell the monks.

China sent troops in to "liberate" Tibet in 1950, and officially began
its rule of the region a year later.

Chinese troops suppressed an uprising in 1959, forcing Tibetan
spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to flee to India. The anniversary of
the protest fell this week.
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