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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."

Tibet braced after monks spark protests

March 14, 2008

The Financial Times
March 13 2008 17:34

Residents in the Tibetan capital Lhasa are preparing for more protests
after the most serious social unrest to hit the Himalayan territory in
nearly two decades.

Chinese security officers were out in force on Thursday as an uneasy
calm settled on the city after hundreds of Buddhist monks and ethnic
Tibetans staged protests against Chinese rule.

The demonstrations were timed to mark the 49th anniversary of the
uprising in which the Dalai Lama fled to India, and draw attention to
the Tibetan cause in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. The show of
defiance is likely to make security preparations for the games an even
bigger worry.

"The Olympics present an opportunity for many groups and individuals
to get together to press China on its human rights record," said Kate
Saunders from the International Campaign for Tibet. "Tibetans in Tibet
are aware of the things happening around the world and know the
spotlight is on China right now."

Tibetans have staged protests this week in India, Nepal and Greece,
where officials from China's Athens embassy filmed participants in a
Tibetan-organised alternative torch-lighting ceremony.

Indian police on Thursday halted 100 Tibetans marching across India to
the Chinese border. The march began on Monday from the northern Indian
city of Dharamsala, home to the Dalai Lama's government in exile.

Police also arrested members of the Tibetan Youth Congress who staged
a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Thirty-six arrested protesters have begun a hunger strike from jail,
said Dhondup Dorjee, vice-president of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

The Dalai Lama has not given his blessing to the march but Tsering
Tempa, Representative of the Dalai Lama's office in New Delhi, warned
of the risks Tibetan protesters were taking. "In India the most that
happens is you get a beating or you end up in jail. But in Tibet you
are risking your life."

China's foreign minister reacted testily on Wednesday when he was
asked about pressure from rights groups in the lead-up to the
Olympics. "Those who want to tarnish the image of China . . . will
only have their own image tarnished," state media reported Yang Jiechi
as saying.

The protests in Lhasa began on Monday when a few hundred monks calling
for religious freedom and the release of jailed colleagues marched
from the Drepung Monastery towards the city. They were stopped on the
outskirts and a number of them arrested, according to Tibetan rights
groups, tourist bloggers and people in Tibet.

Hundreds more monks joined protests around Lhasa and in provinces
bordering Tibet on Tuesday. At least one demonstration was broken up
with tear gas and gunshots were heard in the vicinity of one
monastery, according to rights groups. "These monks have shown immense
courage considering the fact everyone in Tibet knows the consequences
of protesting, even when it is peaceful," Ms Saunders said.

All three of Lhasa's largest monasteries were involved in the protests
this week for the first time since 1989.
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