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Chinese official raps media 'bias' on Tibet

May 2, 2008

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, May 1, 2008

The deputy consul general at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco
defended China's activities in Tibet on Wednesday and lashed out at the
Western press for taking the Dalai Lama's side, a move that some believe
is an attempt to minimize criticism of the sentences doled out this week
to 30 Tibetans.

Weilian Shen, the second in charge at the consulate, accused the Western
press of distorting facts about the "Dalai clique," which he claims
instigated the violence in Lhasa on March 14 in an attempt to disrupt
the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

"The acts of violence ... were committed and instigated by the Dalai
clique," Shen said Wednesday, referring to followers of the Dalai Lama,
the exiled spiritual leader of Buddhist Tibet. "The incident violated
the basic human rights of the people in China."

Besides inciting violence in Tibet, "the Dalai Lama is conducting all
kinds of secessionist activities all over the world," Shen said during a
news conference at the consulate. "He has not stopped his activities of
sabotaging the Beijing Games."

The news conference came as criticism bubbled up again over the Chinese
government's handling of the March 14 protest for Tibetan independence.
The quashing of that protest by Chinese authorities created an
international sensation and led to the disruption of the Olympic torch
relay in several of the 19 cities it visited, including San Francisco.

A Chinese court on Tuesday sentenced 30 people, many of them monks, to
anywhere from three years to life in prison for their alleged
participation in the deadly riot. They were the first of many expected
convictions as officials prepare for the highly controversial torch run
over Mount Everest and into Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Under international pressure, Chinese government officials announced
last week that they would meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama,
but Shen's comments indicate they have no intention of toning down their
verbal offensive against him.

Sophie Richardson, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch, a global
advocacy group, said Shen's statements "suggest to us that Beijing
overtures toward meeting with representatives of the Dalai Lama are
little more than a PR exercise for the rest of the world."

"It's not a surprise because the story about Tibet is back in the paper
and they want to influence what people think," Richardson said. "These
wild allegations make it painfully clear how disingenuous the offer of
dialogue really is."

Shen said the Chinese people are furious that the Western press has been
depicting Tibetans as victims of suppression and the Chinese communists
as oppressors, characterizations that he claims have created an
unnecessarily volatile situation.

"These are totally wrong, biased," he said. "There was, first of all, no
suppression at all."

In the face of looting, beatings, stabbings and the setting of fires in
local shops, he said, "the Chinese police exercised much restraint.
There were no sorts of lethal weapons used."

Richardson said the convicted Tibetans were not allowed to choose their
own counsel, and their trials were held covertly in undisclosed locations.

"It's not exactly the gold standard of due process," Richardson said.
"They certainly deal with criminals the way they deal with Tibetans or
anyone they don't like. Criticism of the government is instantly
construed as subversion."

Shen said he was saddened that many Chinese Americans and supporters of
the Olympics missed the torch relay in San Francisco after it was
re-routed at the last second, but he supported the decision.

"We had to take under consideration people's safety," he said.

Since the turmoil, he said, the situation in Lhasa and elsewhere "has
basically become normal."

To emphasize their point of view, consulate officials handed out three
DVDs on the Dalai Lama and Tibet and a book titled "Tibet: Past and
Present."

The chapter on religious freedom assures readers that "religious
believers in Tibet can go in circles, bow to Buddhist statues, burn
incenses, kowtow, give alms and redeem wishes following their own will."

E-mail Peter Fimrite at pfimrite@sfchronicle.com
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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