Foreigners, media barred from Tibet, mass arrests reported

March 17th, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by admin  

(Second lead)
Beijing, March 17 (DPA) China Monday expelled journalists from Tibet’s Lhasa and suspended permits for foreigners to travel to the region as a Tibetan exile group reported mass arrests ahead of a deadline for protesters to surrender to police. Officials stopped issuing travel permits, which are not required for any other Chinese region, because of “safety concerns,” Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the regional government, told reporters in Beijing.

“We also suggest foreign tourists now in Tibet leave in the coming days,” state media quoted Ju Jianhua, head of the region’s foreign affairs office, as saying.

The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association issued a statement saying reporters from at least six Hong Kong media groups were ordered to leave Lhasa by plane Monday.

The association called the expulsion “unacceptable” and said it contravened new government regulations allowing greater access for foreign journalists ahead of this year’s Beijing Olympics.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said it had details of two dozen foreign reporters who were expelled from Lhasa and other Tibetan areas.

Some reporters were told they were barred due to police action, the club said.

Extended government censorship of the Internet and international television broadcasts since the protests began last week was also hampering journalists, it said.

“The interference in reporting activities is not in keeping with the temporary Olympic period reporting regulations, and is especially not in keeping with the international community’s expectations of an Olympic host nation,” club president Melinda Liu said.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau reported that staff from international non-governmental organizations were also ordered to leave Lhasa by Monday, raising fears that troops could toughen their crackdown on the protestors once a deadline for protestors to surrender passed at midnight Monday.

The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy on Monday said that paramilitary police had already arrested hundreds of Tibetans over the weekend in Lhasa.

The police reportedly detained all former political prisoners and conducted house-to-house searches, focussing on young Tibetan men.

Many Tibetan residents reported young men from their families being “beaten and dragged away” by security forces, the centre said.

Lhasa residents confirmed to DPA that police and troops were checking the identities of all pedestrians and searching homes.

A Chinese worker in an international hotel said friends in Lhasa had told her that police were checking identity documents door-to-door.

Tibetan exile groups reported several new protests at monastery towns in other Tibetan areas of China.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said some 700 teenagers protested on Monday outside a local police station in Hongyuan county, Sichuan province, after about 40 students from their school were beaten and detained for calling for the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, to be allowed to return to Tibet.

Qiangba Puncog said that 13 people had died since rioting erupted in Lhasa Friday, rejecting reports by the Tibetan government in exile, which said it had confirmed at least 80 deaths in the city.

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