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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?"

China accuses Dalai Lama of taking Olympics "hostage"

March 24, 2008

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING, March 23 (Reuters) - China accused the Dalai Lama on Sunday of
using unrest in Tibet to back demands for Tibetan independence ahead of
the August Olympic Games in Beijing.

The verbal attack on the exiled Tibetan leader, accused on Saturday of
colluding with Muslim Uighur separatists in China's western Xinjiang
region, was part of an intense propaganda and security drive to stifle
anti-Chinese unrest before the Games.

Unrest in Tibet began when Buddhist monks demonstrated in the capital,
Lhasa, on March 10, the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against
Chinese rule, and on subsequent days.

Five days later anti-Chinese rioting shook the city. Chinese authorities
said one policeman and 18 civilians were killed.

Anti-government protests then flared in nearby provinces with large
ethnic Tibetan populations, leading to violence in which several people
were killed and many injured.

In Sichuan, Gansu and other troubled provinces troops continued
conspicuously patrolling the streets of Tibetan towns, and kept schools
and Buddhist monasteries under tight guard.

The official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday that 94 people had
been injured in Tibetan areas in Gansu, almost all of them police.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has in recent
days criticised the violence and said he wants talks with China to
negotiate autonomy, but not independence, for his homeland.

But the government is intensifying propaganda telling its citizens and
the rest of the world that the Dalai Lama, not failings in government
policy, caused the trouble in Tibet and accusing him of wanting to ruin
the Beijing Olympic Games.

"We must ... win the final victory in all respects against the
secessionist forces to help ensure a successful Olympic Games with a
stable social situation in the Tibet Autonomous Region," Xinhua quoted
Tibet's governor, Qiangba Puncog, as saying.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's
Daily, said on Sunday that the Dalai Lama, winner of the 1989 Nobel
Peace Prize, had never abandoned violence after fleeing China in 1959
following a failed revolt against Beijing.

"The so-called 'peaceful non-violence' of the Dalai clique is an
outright lie from start to end," the paper said. "... The Dalai Lama is
scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage to force the Chinese
government to make concessions to Tibet independence."

STICKING POINT

Beijing's efforts to isolate the Dalai Lama could become a sticking
point with Taiwan's President-elect Ma Ying-jeou, who said the exiled
leader would be welcome on the disputed island, and that an Olympic
boycott was possible.

China calls Taiwan a breakaway province that must accept reunification.

"The Dalai Lama, if he wants to visit Taiwan, he'd be more than
welcome," Ma told a news conference in Taipei on Sunday, a day after his
landslide election win.

"If the situation in Tibet worsens, we would consider the possibility of
not sending athletes to the Games," said Ma -- who wants closer economic
ties and political dialogue with China.

On Saturday the Peoples Daily accused the Dalai Lama of planning attacks
with the aid of violent Uighur separatist groups seeking an independent
East Turkestan for their largely Muslim people in Xinjiang.

Up to now, most of the ferocious criticism of the Dalai Lama came from
the official press in Tibet but others are joining in.

"Tibet is an inseparable part of China. In the history of the world
there has never been a country or a government that has ever recognised
Tibetan independence," Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme was quoted by Xinhua as
saying on Sunday.

The 86-year-old is a vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political
Consultative Conference, the top advisory body to parliament. He
represented Tibet in 1951, signing the surrender agreement with Beijing
a year after Chinese troops took control of Tibet for the Communist
winners of China's civil war.

China's denunciations of the Dalai Lama have drawn applause from many
Han Chinese citizens, who have said Western critics fail to appreciate
their government's efforts to develop Tibet.

But the campaign has begun to draw some domestic critics.

On Saturday, a group of 29 Chinese dissidents urged Beijing to end the
bitter propaganda, allow United Nations investigators into Tibet, and
open direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

Troops have choked off much travel in Tibetan areas and blocked access
by foreign reporters, and officials have said they are also guarding
against unrest in Xinjiang. (Additional reporting by David Gray in
Kangding, China; Ralph Jennings in Taipei; and Lindsay Beck and Kirby
Chien in Beijing; editing by Tim Pearce)
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