China takes western diplomats to Lhasa to assess situation

March 28th, 2008 - 1:47 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 28 (DPA) China, bowing to international pressure, is allowing a delegation of western diplomats to travel to Tibet Friday. The 17 Beijing-based diplomats - from countries including Germany, the US, Britain, France and Australia - will be accompanied by Chinese officials on their two-day visit to assess for themselves the situation after unrest in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack welcomed the move as “a step in the right direction”, but said it was not a “substitute” for diplomats and others to travel to Lhasa and to surrounding Tibetan regions currently closed to diplomats and journalists.

The diplomatic visit comes the day after a government-organised tour for foreign journalists was disrupted by a monk protesting against Chinese rule and accusing China of lies.

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.

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