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Reports: New protests in Tibet as diplomats end visit

March 30, 2008

From Associated Press – Radio broadcaster and Tibetan activists have reported that fresh protests broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa as foreign diplomats wrapped up a tightly controlled visit organized by Beijing.

Kate Saunders of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said a demonstration began Saturday afternoon at the Ramoche monastery and grew to involve “many people. Citing unnamed witnesses in the city, she said the situation calmed down after a few hours.

The U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported several hundred people took part in the protests.

Ramoche was the original site of monk-led demonstrations that began peacefully on March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, but erupted in violence days later. The Chinese government says 22 people died, while Tibetans abroad put the toll at 140.

The unrest was a public relations disaster for communist leaders, who want to use the upcoming Beijing Olympics to showcase China as a prosperous, stable society.

The reports of new protests came as a 15-member group of diplomats from the United States, Japan and Europe returned to Beijing after a two-day visit to Lhasa.

The descriptions of new protests could not be independently confirmed and China issued no immediate response.

An American Embassy spokeswoman said she had no information on any protests. A Japanese diplomat, Mitsuhiro Wada, said, “No,” when asked at the Beijing airport whether he saw any protests.

Beijing is trying to enforce calm in Tibet and buttress its claim that the most violent anti-Chinese protests since 1989 were incited by forces linked to the Dalai Lama.

During their Lhasa tour, diplomats met people selected by Chinese authorities, who accompanied them at all times, the American Embassy said in a brief statement.

“The delegation was not permitted to move about independently in Lhasa, and was unable to hold unsupervised conversations with local residents,” the statement said. It gave no other details but repeated Washington’s appeal to China to show restraint.

The British Embassy and the European Union mission in Beijing had no immediate comment.

In Katmandu, police say 200 Tibetan exiles and monks have tried to storm the Chinese Embassy visa office in Nepal’s capital. Police stopped them by beating them with bamboo batons.

At least 130 protesters were arrested and some of the demonstrators and policemen were injured in the scuffle. Sunday’s protest is the latest by Tibetan monks and refugees in Nepal’s capital against the recent crackdown in Tibet by Chinese authorities.

Nepal has said it will not allow protests against any “friendly nation,” including China.

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