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Chinese Security Forces Maintain Calm In Lhasa

By Stephanie Ho
16 March 2008

Chinese Security Forces Maintain Calm in Lhasa

China says Lhasa is calm, two days after peaceful street protests in the Tibetan capital turned violent. Beijing is stepping up its efforts to blame the Dalai Lama for the riots, while countries around the world are urging Chinese authorities to respond with restraint. Meanwhile, protests against Chinese rule in Tibet have turned violent in China's neighboring province of Sichuan.

Human-rights groups say at least seven people, including a security officer, died Sunday in clashes in Sichuan's Aba county. The death toll has not been confirmed. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Video images from Lhasa on international television news channels Sunday show Chinese police in riot gear, making door to door searches.

Following several days of peaceful Tibetan protests against Chinese rule in Tibet, violence erupted in Lhasa last Friday. Buildings were burned to the ground, cars were set on fire and at least 10 people were killed, by official Chinese estimates.

Chinese authorities continued to level blame for the violence at what it calls "the Dalai clique," headed by Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who lives in northern India.

Urgen Tenzin, with the Dharmsala-based non-governmental organization, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, says these accusations are baseless.

"They are blaming his holiness, the Dalai Lama, for this demonstration, which is totally wrong," said Tenzin. "This is not true."

Tenzin says China is ruining its chance of negotiating in good faith with the Dalai Lama, who wants autonomy for Tibet within China. Beijing accuses him of seeking independence.

Tenzin expressed doubts about the Chinese government's offer of leniency to demonstrators who turn themselves in or to people who inform on others, before Tuesday.

"And when they get all the information about the demonstrators, definitely they will use action against them, and I think the Tibetan people will suffer," added Tenzin.

A Chinese government spokesman refused to comment and referred questions to official Chinese media reports.

Control of information is one important aspect of the story. International television news reports of the Lhasa unrest have been regularly cut off inside China, while blog postings that present views that differ from the official view are quickly removed from the Internet.

Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California at Berkeley, says the Chinese government does not want the world to see one of its weaknesses.

"This event, if it tells us anything, it tells us that the Chinese government is not [as] in control as they think they are or as they claim they are," said Xiao.

Meanwhile, leaders around the world have appealed for the Chinese government not to resort to violence in dealing with the demonstrators. And international human rights groups are calling for a United Nations fact-finding mission to assess the situation in Tibet.

The unrest and ensuing crackdown come at a particularly bad time for China, which is hoping to showcase unity when it hosts the Olympic games in August. The violence comes about two weeks before China's Olympic celebrations kick off, with the start of a torch relay that includes Tibet on its itinerary.


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