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China Seeks to Close Book on Unrest

April 3, 2008

And yet again, thanks to Tony from Slightly South of Sane for sending this in!

From Associated Press – China plans to put Lhasa rioters on trial and reopen Tibet to tourism by May, underscoring the government’s drive to close the book on recent unrest well ahead of this summer’s Beijing Olympics.

Other Tibetan regions may remain off-limits considerably longer, however, with police in western Sichuan province blocking access to foreigners on Thursday. One officer said the area, scene of widespread protests last month, may remain closed through the end of the games.

Chinese propaganda continues to blame the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet’s Buddhists, for a bloody March 14 riot in Lhasa.

In Washington, the Dalai Lama’s special envoy told U.S. lawmakers that China must bear full responsibility for recent violence and suffering in Tibet and said his homeland is being ”brutally occupied.”

”The situation today is grim,” Lodi Gyari said at a Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing.

But China has begun portraying life in Tibet as gradually returning to normal.

State television Thursday showed individual Chinese travelers returning to Lhasa, and the regional tourism authority announced Tibet would reopen to foreign groups on May 1, the start of a national three-day holiday.

Tour operators, hotels and restaurant owners have complained of major losses from the closure of the region’s borders as part of the massive security clampdown.

Trials for rioters will held before May 1, Lhasa’s deputy Communist Party secretary was quoted as saying in the state-run Tibet Commerce newspaper. Wang Xiangming said about 1,280 alleged rioters have been captured or turned themselves in to police.

Rights groups have voiced concerns over the potential abuse of prisoners, and American activist John Kamm said he had submitted a list of 17 Tibetan monks who were detained on March 10 at the start of peaceful protests that turned violent four days later. The protests have been the largest and most sustained among Tibetans in almost two decades.

Kamm, executive director of the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, said China appears determined to defy international criticism over its Tibet policies, even though some officials seem to realize the country’s reputation has suffered in the run-up to the Games.

”What gives me some hope is that there’s some recognition that China’s international image has taken a beating,” Kamm told reporters in Beijing.

Beijing has sent thousands of police and paramilitary troops into Tibet and neighboring Tibetan areas to maintain an edgy peace, hunt down protest leaders and surround Buddhist monasteries in Lhasa.

Police manning a checkpoint on Thursday stopped reporters trying to enter Aba prefecture, a primarily Tibetan area in Sichuan province, and escorted them back to the provincial capital, Chengdu.

At a news conference in Beijing, Aba’s deputy chief Xiao Youcai, said life was ”completely normal” in the area, but insisted also that it remained ”too dangerous” for foreign journalists.

Xiao refused to confirm an earlier state media report that Aba police had shot and wounded four rioters in self-defense, conceding only that shots had been fired in self-defense. Tibetan groups said up to 20 people may have been killed.

Alongside the stepped-up security, the region’s top officials have ordered more stringent ideological education for young people — an apparent acknowledgment that years of political indoctrination have failed to curb support for the Dalai Lama.

Zhang Qingli, Tibet’s hard-line Communist Party leader, said efforts should focus on negative portrayals of Tibet prior to the Communist invasion in 1950, and continued vilification of what Beijing calls the Dalai Lama’s secret campaign to split Tibet from China and sabotage the Olympics, according to the official newspaper Tibet Daily.

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