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Foreign media return to Tibet under tight escort

Latest update : 2008-03-27

About 30 Tibetan monks briefly disrupted a field trip to Lhasa the Chinese authorities organized for a small group of reporters. (Report: J.Creedon)


BEIJING — About 30 Tibetan monks burst into a rare news briefing at a key temple in Lhasa on Thursday, saying the authorities were lying about the situation after more than two weeks of unrest in the Himalayan region, a witness said.


The Chinese government brought a small group of foreign and Chinese reporters to Lhasa on Wednesday for a stage managed three-day tour of the city that was rocked by anti-Chinese violence on March 14.


The group of monks at the JokhangTemple, the most sacred temple in Tibet and a top tourist stop in central Lhasa, disrupted a briefing by the head of the temple's administrative office.


"About 30 young monks burst into the official briefing, shouting: 'Don't believe them. They are tricking you. They are telling lies'," USA Today reporter Callum MacLeod said by telephone from Lhasa.


Some wept as they then told foreign reporters stories about a lack of freedom, he said.


Another reporter on the trip said some of the monks asserted that they had been unable to leave the Jokhang Temple since March 10.


The state-run Xinhua news agency said only that the media tour had been "disrupted" by monks, known as lamas in Tibet, but that it got back on track swiftly and that Lhasa was returning to normal after the unrest.


The Tibetan unrest and China's response are at the centre of an international storm ahead of the Olympics in August.


US President George W. Bush encouraged Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday to talk with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.


Hu said the monk must renounce support for independence of Tibet and Taiwan and stop encouraging violence and illegal activities aimed at harming the Olympics. The Dalai Lama denies he wants anything more than greater autonomy for his homeland and has criticised the violent protests.


Riots and  protests


The unrest began with peaceful marches by Buddhist monks in Lhasa more than two weeks ago. Within days, riots erupted in which non-Tibetan Chinese migrants were attacked and their property burned until security forces filled the streets.


Protests have spread to parts of Chinese provinces that border Tibet and have large ethnic Tibetan populations.


China says 19 people were killed at the hands of Tibetan mobs. The Tibetan government-in-exile says 140 died in Lhasa and elsewhere — most of them Tibetan victims of security forces.


China has poured troops into the region, and Human Rights Watch said the United Nations human rights council should address the crisis in Tibet.


Human Rights Watch said Australia, the European Union, Switzerland and the United States raised human rights abuses in Tibet during a session of the UN Human Rights Council, but China blocked debate, backed by Algeria, Cuba, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.


"The council has not only the right, but the obligation to address the Tibet crisis," a statement quoted Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, as saying. "It's scandalous that the council ends up silencing those who are trying to make sure it does its job."


Meanwhile, Beijing continued its propaganda blitz and Xinhua quoted "living Buddhas" condemning other monks who participated in the March 14 upheaval.


"According to Buddhist karma, they cannot reincarnate after death because of the sin they have committed," said Chubakang Tubdain Kaizhub, head of the Tibetan chapter of the Buddhist Association of China.


Taiwan's outgoing President Chen Shui-bian called for people to stand up "in the name of universal human rights, positively show they care, and light a candle for the people of Tibet".


He added: "I also call on the Beijing authorities to abandon the use of force and resolve the problem through peaceful dialogue."

Date created : 2008-03-27