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France

China clamps down on Tibetan riot anniversary

©

Video by Yuka ROYER

Latest update : 2009-03-14

On the anniversary of last year’s deadly riots in Lhasa, Tibet was shut off from the outside world Saturday, with a heavy Chinese security presence stationed across the restive region.

REUTERS - China warned the West not to "put its fingers into" Tibet as the restive region, under heavy security and shut off from the outside world, marked on Saturday the anniversary of last year's deadly riots in Lhasa.

Officials in Beijing demanded an apology from France's AFP news agency, saying it had mislabelled a picture of weapons displayed in an exhibition on Tibet, according to a long article by the state-run Xinhua news agency late on Friday.

 

The French news agency had already corrected the caption.

 

Relations between China and France have been testy since French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, last year.

 

Rioting broke out in Lhasa on March 14 last year, following several days of peaceful protests by monks, killing 19 people and sparking waves of protests across Tibetan areas. Exile groups say more than 200 people died in the crackdown.

 

Overseas activists planned to mark the anniversary with a demonstration in New York, but the official Xinhua agency slammed Western critics of China's rule as misguided do-gooders.

 

"They might as well bow their heads, mourn those who died in the Lhasa riots last year, and think twice before putting their fingers into something they are ignorant of again," Xinhua said in an English-language opinion piece that appeared aimed at readers outside China.

 

Beijing has promised the region will be calm this year and President Hu Jintao called for a "Great Wall" of stability there.

 

Tibet and ethnic Tibetan areas of surrounding provinces are under heavy military presence and strictly off limits to foreign journalists and even tourists. Armed police manning road-blocks turned back would-be visitors.

 

A trickle of isolated protests in recent weeks, including a monk who set himself on fire at the Kirti monastery in Western Sichuan, suggest lingering discontent.

 

Many Tibetans did not celebrate their New Year in February, in silent protest and mourning for those who died last year.

 

Lhasa residents reached by phone said the day was "like any other", but declined to comment on the security situation, and local government websites had no articles on the topic.

 

Chinese-language media largely ignored the anniversary on Saturday. The previous day Xinhua reported on Tibetans who had provided free vegetables to the Chinese army for years, and a call from President Hu Jintao to build lasting peace in Tibet.

 

Date created : 2009-03-14

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