Monks interrupt Lhasa media tour with protest

March 27th, 2008 - 7:09 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 27 (DPA) A group of monks Thursday used a government-organized trip of foreign journalists to Lhasa to stage a protest against Chinese rule, the correspondents reported. The monks interrupted the journalists’ trip to Jokhang Temple, considered Tibetan Buddhism’s most sacred site, by shouting about the lack of freedoms in Tibet and denying China’s claims that the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, fomented the riots of two weeks ago.

“Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” shouted one young Buddhist monk, who then started to cry, in TV footage shown on BBC.

The monks said troops who had been guarding the temple since March 14 were removed just before the reporters’ visit.

Officials called on the journalists to leave and tried to pull them away during the protest, according to witnesses.

In its only reference to the protests, the state-run news agency Xinhua said monks “disrupted” the tour of 26 hand-picked journalists from 19 media organization. The foreign ministry in Beijing did not want to comment on the protest.

The journalists arrived for their highly regimented, three-day trip Wednesday as China sought to quiet criticism that it was barring independent journalists from Tibetan areas where demonstrations and unrest have broken out since March 10, the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

Three days later, those protests escalated into riots in Lhasa. The Chinese government has said 22 people were killed in the violence there, but the India-based Tibetan government in exile said it confirmed the deaths of about 140 people, many of them Tibetans shot by Chinese police.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang Thursday again called for people involved in the Lhasa violence to turn themselves in.

“We urge those lawbreakers involved in burning, smashing and looting who are still at large to hand themselves in,” he said.

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