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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."

Heavily Guarded Olympic Torch Is Conveyed Through Tibetan Capital

June 23, 2008

By Maureen Fan
The Washington Post Foreign Service
June 22, 2008; A11

BEIJING, June 21 -- Under tight security Saturday, the Olympic torch
relay wound through the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, where deadly
rioting in March has left a climate of fear and a heavy police presence.

The Chinese government's crackdown after the riots -- the biggest
uprising against Beijing in nearly 20 years -- prompted international
criticism and violent protests as the torched passed through London,
Paris, San Francisco and other cities.

But the Lhasa leg, which lasted just over two hours, went smoothly as
thousands gathered for a tightly controlled event meant to
demonstrate national unity.

Chinese authorities initially refused to alter the route through
Tibet in the face of criticism over China's human rights record. But
after last month's earthquake in Sichuan province, they agreed to
briefly suspend the relay out of respect for the quake victims, and
the Tibetan leg was shortened from three days to one.

But activists continue to sharply criticize the Lhasa portion of the
relay, as well as a separate leg that scaled Mount Everest, as an
attempt by China to symbolize its control over the Himalayan region.

"This provocative decision -- with the blessing of the International
Olympic Committee -- could aggravate tensions and undermine the
fragile process to find a peaceful long-term solution for Tibet and
the region," said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in
China. "The government's insistence on parading the torch through
Lhasa can only undermine the respect and trust required for a genuine
dialogue process with the Dalai Lama," the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Chinese leaders accuse the Dalai Lama of sparking the riots, in which
many Tibetans targeted businesses owned by Han Chinese. The leaders
consider him a dangerous separatist but have expressed a willingness
to restart negotiations with him about greater autonomy for the region.

On Saturday, a 75-year-old Tibetan mountaineer, Gonpo, kicked off the
relay in Lhasa, receiving the flame from Qin Yizhi, the secretary for
the Lhasa city committee of the Communist Party.

"I'm delighted and I'm excited," Gonpo said on state-run television.
"It's a glorious, big event."

The flame then traveled from Norbulingka, the former summer palace of
the Dalai Lama, to the square below the Potala Palace, the
traditional seat of Tibetan rulers.

Paramilitary troops and police lined the route, as carefully screened
Han Chinese spectators in red T-shirts and headbands waved flags and
shouted "Go, China" in unison.

The torchbearers, who ran for just a couple of minutes each before
switching off, were tightly controlled by four security guards
running alongside them, four more on motorcycles and 20 guards in two
columns on both sides of the torch. The four guards on foot often
stopped torchbearers from moving to the side of the road to pass the
flame, pushing them back into the center of the road to make the transfer.

About half of the 156 torchbearers were ethnic Tibetan, the official
state-run New China News Agency said, including many Lhasa officials.
Many of the rest appeared to be Han Chinese.

On Friday, the vice governor of Tibet, Palma Trily, announced that 12
more people had been sentenced for their roles in the March 14
rioting, without giving any further details. He said an additional
1,157 people had been released from detention over minor offenses
related to the protests.

Despite Beijing's promises of open media access for the Aug. 8-24
Olympic Games, Tibet remains closed to foreign tourists and foreign
media -- apart from a few closely monitored government tours.

Palma Trily said the region would soon reopen to foreign tourists but
gave no specifics.

News researcher Liu Songjie contributed to this report.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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