Outspoken monks won’t be punished: China

March 28th, 2008 - 7:47 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 28 (DPA) China said it would not punish a group of Tibetan monks for disrupting a government-organized media tour of Lhasa as it allowed a delegation of Western diplomats to travel Friday to the Tibetan capital. The government-arranged tour for foreign journalists was disrupted Thursday by a group of 30 monks protesting Chinese rule and the lack of freedom in Tibet with one shouting, “Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!”

Tibetans in exile said they feared for the fate of the outspoken monks, but Baema Chilain, vice chairman of Tibet, said they faced no punishment.

“But what they said is not true,” he added. “They were attempting to mislead the world’s opinion. The facts shouldn’t be distorted.”

Bowing to international pressure, China allowed 17 Beijing-based diplomats from countries, including Germany, the US, Britain, France and Australia to travel to Lhasa for a two-day visit accompanied by Chinese officials to assess the situation there after anti-Chinese riots broke out two weeks ago.

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 trip began as the foreign journalists were ending their highly regimented, three-day trip to Lhasa and came on the same day that the UN Human Rights Council was due to end a meeting in Geneva, failing to take action on Tibet.

The council widely regarded a toothless institution faced heavy criticism for not recommending any special action over human rights violations in Tibet.

Anti-China demonstrations and unrest erupted there March 10, the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, and as the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council were holding their session.

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.

Chinese authorities have also broken up demonstrations by Tibetans in other parts of China

European countries, supported by Australia and the US, raised Tibet before the council, but the debate was abandoned amid Chinese protests.

China’s handling of the demonstrations has provoked international criticism, some of the latest of which came from a group of Western academics.

In an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, the group called for an end to violence as well as freedom of speech and opinion in Tibet.

“At this moment, the suppression of political dissent appears to be the primary goal of authorities across all the Tibetan areas within China, which have been isolated from the rest of China and the outside world,” the 75 Tibetan studies scholars said in the letter published on the internet.

They said suppression of free speech was “counterproductive” and would “contribute to instability and tension, not lessen them.”

“The attribution of the current unrest to the Dalai Lama represents a reluctance on the part of the Chinese government to acknowledge and engage with policy failures that are surely the true cause of popular discontent,” they added.

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