Lhasa protests continue as monks face punishment

March 30th, 2008 - 10:35 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 30 (DPA) Massive security measures by Chinese authorities failed to prevent new protests in Lhasa as foreign diplomats departed the Tibetan capital, the exiled government said Sunday. Thousands protested against Chinese rule Saturday.

Officials from 15 foreign embassies had been allowed to visit Tibet for less than 24 hours Friday-Saturday in a tightly regulated trip, which however failed to provide new information on the human rights situation in the Chinese-occupied province.

Witnesses said there had been large-scale protests in central Lhasa after the diplomats’ departure, Radio Free Asia said.

In neighbouring Sichuan province, security forces Friday stormed Kirti monastery and arrested more than 100 monks, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

According to the Tibet-based daily Xizang Ribao, Chinese authorities replaced the head of the Tibetan commission for minorities and religion as the protests went into the third week.

The daily did not give details. It remains unclear whether the personnel changes are connected the events in Tibet.

China Sunday increased already tight security for the arrival of the Olympic flame from Greece at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, fearing protests.

Organizers excluded about two dozen foreign media organizations from the ceremony on short notice, among DPA, citing “security reasons.”

A group of Tibetan monks which held a daring protest in front of a group of visiting journalists in Lhasa last week are to face punishment for their actions despite earlier assurances that the monks would not be harmed, sources informed about the diplomat trip said Sunday.

Officials in the Tibetan capital who hosted the visit by international diplomats reported that no-one had asked what would happen to the monks, “but whoever exhibits separatist tendencies will be punished according to the law,” delegation sources said.

The diplomatic delegation to Lhasa was “a very tightly but not very cleverly organized attempt to show the official Chinese point of view,” the sources said.

The diplomats made it clear that they “were not satisfied with the show” and that China must allow more transparency, despite the trip being a step in the right direction.

According to the US embassy, diplomats were not able to move around Lhasa freely or talk to residents without supervision.

Officials in Lhasa stressed to the group that it was “neither an ethnic nor a religious conflict,” but a separatist action “by a handful of violence-prone troublemakers.”

Questions regarding the causes of the unrest and the circumstances of the official reactions remained unanswered.

At the same time, the officials stuck to the official line that the Tibetan spiritual leader and head of the government-in-exile, the Dalai Lama, was orchestrating the protests from outside the country.

One of the diplomats described this argument as incoherent.

From his Indian exile, the Dalai Lama called for the international community’s support.

“I stand here helpless and can only pray,” Tibet’s spiritual leader said during prayers in New Dehli on Saturday.

Despite its actions in Tibet, China nonetheless deserved to host the Olympics the Dalai Lama said.

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