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China takes foreign journalists on Tibet “tour”

March 26, 2008

From Daily Times – China moved Wednesday to show it had the situation in Tibet under control, escorting foreign journalists on a tour of the region and saying more than 660 people had surrendered over deadly unrest.

The media trip came as Chinese state-run press and online forums ramped up criticism over Western reporting about the unrest, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned he might boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. The small delegation of selected foreign journalists landed in Lhasa on Wednesday for a three-day reporting trip.

China has indicated the journalists – the first allowed into Tibet since the unrest – would be permitted to speak with victims of the violence and shown property damaged by rioters, but gave no assurances on reporting freedom. The group did not include AFP and some other major global news agencies. Protests in Lhasa began on March 10 – the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule of the region.

China has accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding the protests – a charge the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader vehemently denies. Beijing has sought to highlight attacks by Tibetans on ethnic Chinese, and on Wednesday said more than 280 people had surrendered in Lhasa, while 381 others had turned themselves in in Ngawa county, in southwest Sichuan province, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

France: In France, Sarkozy said Tuesday “all options are open” regarding an Olympics boycott, as he appealed to China’s leaders to show a “sense of responsibility” over the unrest. His aides specified that France was still considering the possibility of snubbing the opening ceremony, but ruled out boycotting the entire Summer Games. Increasing the pressure on China, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, in an interview published Wednesday, recommended that Sarkozy meet with the Dalai Lama during a planned trip to France in August.

China reacted quickly, with foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang issuing a statement saying Beijing “resolutely opposes official contact of any kind between any country and the Dalai Lama”. Other countries remained firmly against any boycott, with the White House saying US President George W Bush still planned to be present for the Olympic opening ceremony. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who has been given the key task of overseeing final preparations for the Beijing Olympics, called Wednesday for politics to stay out of the Games.

UK faults China: Britain said on Tuesday the human rights situation in China was poor and urged Beijing to hold a meaningful dialogue with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The criticism came in the British foreign ministry’s annual report on human rights. The report covers the 15 months to the end of last year and does not refer to the latest Tibet unrest.

At a news conference to launch the report, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said worldwide concern over the situation in Tibet was “justified and proper” but he spoke out against boycotting this year’s Beijing Olympics. “I don’t believe a boycott of the Olympics is the right thing to do … A wrecked Olympics is actually not going to do anything for human rights in China,” he said. agencies

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