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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."

Riot shows desperate Tibetans may defy security

March 24, 2009

By Emma Graham-Harrison
Reuters
March 23, 2009

BEIJING, March 23 (Reuters) - A weekend riot by
hundreds of ethnic Tibetans was a spontaneous
response to tough Chinese security measures,
activists and an expert said on Monday, and more
destabilising outbursts are likely in coming months.

Beijing has flooded Tibet and ethnic Tibetan
areas in neighbouring provinces with security
forces, cut off some Internet and mobile phone
services and closed the region to almost all
foreigners in March, a month of sensitive
anniversaries and a controversial new holiday.

But the heavy security presence and threat of
harsh punishment during a "strike hard" campaign
against separatism has not been enough to contain
simmering resentment about Chinese rule,
including anger at controls on religion and limited economic opportunities.

Police detained almost 100 monks after hundreds
of people rioted and attacked a police station in
an ethnic Tibetan part of the western province of
Qinghai, state media said on Sunday. [ID:nPEK371055]

The incident was just the latest in a string of
isolated but recurring outbursts of unrest,
including a monk who set himself on fire and a
bomb thrown at a government office.

"Protesters know they could be arrested and
beaten up for shouting slogans or distributing
leaflets near police stations or barracks, but
they are not afraid. It's a sign they have given
up all hope," a Beijing-based source with
contacts in Tibetan areas told Reuters.

More than 60 people had been arrested in one
small corner of Sichuan province since February alone, the source added.

"The situation is very tense. There have been
arrests almost every day," he told Reuters,
asking not to be named because conditions in
Tibetan areas are highly sensitive and he was not
authorised to talk to the media.

AT BREAKING POINT

Rioting broke out in Tibet's regional capital
Lhasa on March 14 last year after days of
protests against Chinese rule by Buddhist monks,
killing 19 people and sparking waves of protests
across Tibetan areas. Groups of Tibetan exiles
say more than 200 people died in a subsequent crackdown.

A year later many Tibetans skipped traditional
New Year celebrations in an understated gesture
of mourning for last year's dead, and activists
say they are under so much pressure that
outbreaks like Sunday's riot are almost inevitable.

"I think this is a sign of how bad things are
inside and how people feel absolutely frustrated
and at breaking point," said Lhadon Tethong,
executive director of Students for a Free Tibet.

"Clearly Beijing is taking the iron fist approach
to resistance, but Tibetans are showing they
won't be cowed -- even when it appears to be
calm, something like this happens."

This month also marks the 50th anniversary of the
flight into exile in India of the Dalai Lama,
Tibet's spiritual leader whom Beijing brands a
separatist, after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Beijing is mobilising government officials and
Tibetans to try to calm the area and preach a message of national unity.

Gyaltsen Norbu, recognised by Beijing as the 11th
incarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibet's number
two spiritual leader, wrote on Monday that monks
and nuns should not get involved in politics or support separatism.

"According to my understanding of the essence of
Buddhist sutras, any monks and nuns should also
love their own motherland while strictly abiding
by religious disciplines," he wrote in an article
published by the official China Daily newspaper.

But the 19-year-old monk is spurned by many
Tibetans. Instead they support another boy who
was chosen by the Dalai Lama, but disappeared
soon after he was named and at the time was
dubbed the world's youngest political prisoner.

On March 28 Tibet will celebrate for the first
time "serf emancipation day", commemorating the
formation of the communist government 50 years
ago. Critics say it is a propaganda exercise
based on a wilful misrepresentation of history.
(Additional reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim;
Editing by Nick Macfie and Jerry Norton)
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