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China confirms arrests of Tibetan monks

Latest update : 2008-03-11

Chinese govenrnment officials said "some" monks were arrested in Lhasa, confirming reports that dozens were detained after a protest marking the 49th anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule.

China said Tuesday it had quashed a protest  by Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, amid reports that dozens were arrested for marking the anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule.
   
"Yesterday afternoon some monks in Lhasa, abetted by a small handful of people, did some illegal things that challenged social stability," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.
   
"As for how to deal with these detained Tibetans, they have been dealt with according to the law."
   
He was responding to questions about a Radio Free Asia report that said up to 300 monks tried to march from Drepung monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa to the culturally symbolic Potala Palace in the city centre on Monday.
   
The report by the US government-funded broadcaster said between 50 and 60 of the marchers were arrested as police and paramilitary police blocked roads and encircled other monasteries around Lhasa to prevent the protests from growing.
   
Eleven other demonstrators managed to stage a protest in central Lhasa, but they were also arrested, according to the report, citing sources in the city who asked to remain anonymous.
   
China's official Xinhua news agency quoted a senior Tibetan official as confirming that 300 monks entered Lhasa to demonstrate, although the report said they had all been "persuaded" to leave peacefully.
   
The demonstrations coincided with the 49th anniversary of the crushing of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule by the People's Liberation Army of China. Exiled Tibetans staged high-profile protests around the world to mark the day.
   
Chinese troops killed tens of thousands of Tibetans as they quashed the 1959 uprising, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile's website.
   
Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled his homeland following the uprising.
   
China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after sending troops in to "liberate" it, and continues to denounce the Dalai Lama for what it says are his efforts to seek independence for his homeland.
   
The Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, insists he is not pushing for independence, rather an end to Chinese repression and a return to cultural autonomy.
   
In a speech to coincide with the uprising anniversary, the Dalai Lama on Monday attacked China's human rights record and accused Chinese authorities of "unimaginable and gross violations" in his homeland.
   
"For nearly six decades Tibetans have had to live in a state of constant fear under Chinese repression," the 72-year-old said from his exiled base in Dharamshala, India.
   
Also on Monday, Indian police banned about 100 Tibetan exiles in India from going ahead with an historic trek to their homeland as part of pro-independence protests ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
   
Foreign ministry spokesman Qin did not say what fate the protesting monks from Monday's events may face, but other people voicing dissent against Chinese rule in Tibet have previously been handed long jail terms.
   
Among the high-profile cases, a number of nuns were given jail terms of up to 15 years after they secretly recorded songs in 1993 about the Dalai Lama on a tape that was smuggled out and reached the West.
   
Even carrying images of the Dalai Lama in Tibet can lead to harsh punishments, according to rights groups.
   
Police and religious affairs officials in Lhasa refused to comment on Monday's unrest when contacted by AFP.
 

Date created : 2008-03-11

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