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Pelosi slams China crackdown

Sat., March 22, 2008

BEIJING – China issued a “Most Wanted” list of 21 rioters Friday – shown in grainy photos waving knives and fighting during last week’s violence over Chinese rule in Tibet. Thousands of troops continued to push into western China to contain unrest.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave support to the Tibetan cause on a visit to the Dalai Lama, calling China’s crackdown “a challenge to the conscience of the world.”

Her criticism added to a chorus of international concern over Beijing’s harsh response to the anti-government protests, as China sought to blame supporters of the Tibetan spiritual leader for unrest that is posing the biggest challenge in two decades to Beijing’s control of Tibet.

“If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world,” Pelosi told a cheering crowd in Dharmsala, India, seat of the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile.

She dismissed China’s claim that the Dalai Lama was behind the violence in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, as making “no sense.”

China’s response to last week’s riots in Lhasa drew world attention to its human rights record and threatens to overshadow its attempts to project an image of unity and prosperity ahead of the Aug. 8-24 Olympics in Beijing.

On Friday, Chinese authorities intensified a manhunt for the wanted suspects, posting their photos – taken from video cameras and security footage – on major Internet portals.

Shown under the heading of “Lhasa Public Security Bureau’s Wanted List of Criminal Suspects,” the 21 people are accused of endangering national security, and cited for beating, smashing, looting and arson. One suspect is shown wielding a long sword and another is a mustached man who had been shown on news programs slashing another man with a foot-long blade.

The official Xinhua News Agency said two of the 21 suspects had already been arrested and a third turned himself in. Authorities called on the public for help, offering rewards for information and guaranteeing the anonymity of tipsters.

So far, police have arrested a total of 24 people and 170 others turned themselves in, Xinhua has said.

The protests in Lhasa – a show of defiance against 57 years of Chinese rule – sparked sympathy demonstrations in neighboring provinces, prompting Beijing to deploy thousands of troops across a wide swath of western China where more than half of China’s 5.4 million Tibetans live.

Moving from town to town, police set up blockades and checkpoints to keep Tibetans in and journalists out. The mobilization helped authorities reassert control after protests flared in Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces.

In Lhasa on Friday, residents said police were patrolling the streets and people were free to go where they wanted as long as they had identity cards.

An employee of the local Coca-Cola distributor said the business was closed. “Nobody dares to go out,” said the man, who didn’t give his name for fear of retribution.


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