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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."

Tibet's courts vow swift, harsh punishment for unrest

April 5, 2008

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING, April 4 (Reuters) - Tibetans accused of rioting and protesting
against Chinese rule will face swift trials and harsh sentences, state
media said on Friday, vowing that Communist Party-run courts will back a
campaign against the Dalai Lama.

A Chinese online petition condemning Western reports on the unrest
claimed to have attracted close to a million signatures.

Tibet's regional capital Lhasa was last month hit by Buddhist monks'
protests against Chinese rule that gave way to deadly rioting on March
14, and since then security forces have poured in to reimpose control
there and in other restive Tibetan areas.

China says 19 people died in the Lhasa violence but representatives of
the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, say some 140 people
died in the unrest across Tibet and nearby areas.

Chinese officials have accused the Dalai of organising the unrest to
press for Tibetan independence ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in
August, and vowed to come down hard on rioters and on protesters
supporting him.

The Dalai Lama has repeatedly denied the accusations and said he wants
true autonomy, but not outright independence, for Tibet.

Now the region's courts have made clear that they will back the
crackdown, hand out tough verdicts and reinforce the government's
campaign against the Dalai Lama.

Tibet's top law-and-order official Baima Chilin told judges to "use the
weapon of the law to attack enemies, punish crime, protect the people
and maintain stability," the Tibet Daily reported.

"Use trial according to the law of all the criminals to shock
criminality and root out the base of the separatists. Use ample evidence
to expose to the world the Dalai clique's lies of peace and non-violence."

Baima Chilin ordered swift trials and said the judges "have the
confidence of the Party."

On Thursday, an official Tibet news Web site (www.chinatibetnews.com)
said police had caught over 800 people involved in the Lhasa violence
and 280 people had turned themselves in. Monks involved in the earlier
protests have also been charged.

A major Chinese Internet site also promoted an online petition drive
aimed at condemning Western media reports on the unrest.

Chinese officials and state media have criticised Western news reports
of the Tibetan unrest, claiming they have misrepresented violence as
peaceful protest, vilified efforts to develop Tibet, and echoed false
claims of independence advocates.

By Friday evening, Sina.com's online petition condemning Western press
reports claimed close to one million signatures, with many signers
voicing nationalist outrage.

"Let all the country's people see clearly the imperialist threat from
the U.S., Britain and other Western countries," said one comment on the
Web site (news.sina.com.cn). "Take the road of reviving the Chinese nation."

Tibet will be reopened to foreign tourists next month after a six-week
closure, Chinese official media also said.

The Tibet Autonomous Region government will resume giving foreigners
permits on May 1, for the first time since March 16, two days after the
deadly riots in Lhasa.

Foreigners have been barred from Tibet tours for their safety and
because of riot damage to tourist spots, the English-language China
Daily reported, quoting Tibetan regional officials.

Tourism in Tibet took off in the 1980s, supplementing income staples
such as herding and infrastructure projects. Boosted by extra flights
and a high-elevation railway that opened in 2006, tourist numbers rose
60 percent to 4 million people in 2007, state media said.

(Reporting by the Beijing Bureau; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
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