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Communist Boss: Tibet Ready for Torch

April 8, 2008

By SCOTT McDONALD

BEIJING April 6, 2008 (AP) — The Communist Party boss of Tibet says the
region is stable after anti-government riots last month but warned of
possible sabotage against the Olympic torch relay, state media reported
Sunday.

In comments carried Sunday by the official Xinhua News Agency, Zhang
Qingli, was quoted as saying "that the social order in Lhasa and other
parts of Tibet has resumed (as) normal."

Tensions have been simmering in the Tibetan capital and in Tibetan areas
of nearby provinces since before anti-government protests exploded in
mid-March into violence.

Chinese authorities say 22 people died in anti-Beijing riots that broke
out March 14 in Lhasa. The Tibetan self-proclaimed government-in-exile
says up to 140 were killed in the protests and ensuing crackdown.

Last week, eight people were killed when police or paramilitary police
opened fire on a protest in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in
nearby Sichuan province, overseas activist groups reported.

The protests are the longest and most sustained challenge to China's
57-year rule in the Himalayan region. They have also focused increased
international scrutiny and criticism on China in the run-up to this
summer's Olympic Games.

China plans to take the Olympic torch to Tibet twice. One torch will be
taken up Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, in early May, while
the regular torch will go through Lhasa in June.

But Zhang was quoted as warning "that grave challenges remain ahead, as
the Dalai clique is plotting for new sabotage activities."

He said that authorities had "to spare no efforts in preparing for the
torch relay to ward off any possible mishap." Xinhua give no other details.

Beijing has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama and his supporters of
orchestrating the violence, a charge the spiritual leader has repeatedly
denied.

China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say
their homeland was essentially an independent state for most of that
time. Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing
continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.

Taking the Olympic torch to the top of the mountain is seen by some as a
way for Beijing to underscore its claims to Tibet, and has drawn
criticism from Tibetan activist groups.

The torch relay has become a rallying point for a wide range of groups
angry at China, with protests expected later Sunday when it is taken
through London. Demonstrations are also expected Monday when it is in
Paris and Wednesday when it makes its only North American stop in San
Francisco.

China has imposed a security clampdown on Tibetan areas in the western
part of the country in an effort to rein in the anti-government riots
and protests.
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