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China firm in approach to dissent in Tibet

Tue., March 18, 2008

BEIJING – China vowed Monday to defend its sovereignty in Tibet as Chinese troops set up checkpoints and mobilized to quell an uprising. A deadline for protesters in the Tibetan capital to turn themselves in passed without any apparent surrenders or arrests.

In the central government’s first comment on the anti-China protests in Tibet, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao blamed the violence in Lhasa on supporters of the Dalai Lama, the revered spiritual leader who fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

“The Chinese government will unwaveringly protect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Liu said at a hastily called news conference. “The violent acts have demonstrated the true nature of the Dalai clique.”

Some residents reported Monday that Lhasa had quieted down and many people were returning to work. Chinese military police reportedly set up many checkpoints to control movement.

“All across the city today there are checkpoints where you can only enter if you have a permit,” said Marion Berjeret, an intern for a French fashion design company who has lived in Lhasa for four months.

She said foreigners have been moved to the outskirts of the city, where the situation was less tense.

Police were doing “door-to-door searches and just going in and ripping apart and looking for insurgents” as of Sunday, said Susan Wetmore, a Canadian who arrived Monday in Chengdu in neighboring Sichuan province.

In Beijing, Liu accused the Dalai Lama’s supporters of being behind sometimes violent demonstrations at Chinese embassies and consulates in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

German police detained 25 Tibetans on Monday after demonstrators tried to force their way into the Chinese consulate in Munich and spray-painted “Save Tibet” and “Stop Killing” on the building. Tibetan protesters also clashed with police in Nepal and India.

Protests inside China have spilled from Tibet into neighboring provinces and even the capital, Beijing, where students staged a vigil Monday. There were reports of Tibetans clashing with police Monday in regions near Tibet.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged Chinese authorities to exercise “restraint” in Tibet – his strongest message on the violence to date.

“I’m increasingly concerned about the tensions and reports of violence and loss of life in Tibet and elsewhere,” he told reporters outside the council’s chambers.

Asked whether he sees a U.N. role toward Tibet, Ban answered: “We will continuously monitor the situation; we’ll get back to you.”

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Beijing should find a way to work with the Dalai Lama, who she said is not a separatist and could “lend his moral weight” to bringing stability to Tibet.


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