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China and Dalai Lama face off over Tibet unrest

BEIJING (Reuters) - China sought to put an end on Wednesday to pockets of protest still flaring in its Tibetan regions, with arrests, tight security and a war of words with Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

China’s state-run media says 105 people surrendered to police for taking part in protests in Tibet’s capital Lhasa last week that turned violent and that China says were orchestrated by the Dalai Lama from exile in the Indian town of Dharamsala.

Authorities in Tibet, which Chinese Communist troops entered in 1950, had earlier set a midnight deadline for rioters to turn themselves in after the violence that the Dalai Lama’s officials believe killed 99. China puts the death toll in Lhasa at 13.

Foreign media are denied access to the area without government permission, making the competing claims difficult to verify.

But a human rights watchdog called on China to allow independent monitors to have access to detained Tibetans and said the government should publish names of those in custody.

“Given the long and well-documented history of torture of political activists by China’s security forces, there is every reason to fear for the safety of those recently detained,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“Only by giving access to independent monitors can China give the world some confidence that detainees are not being tortured or mistreated,” he said in a statement.

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The governor of Tibet has said that those who gave themselves up could be treated leniently, but warned that those who do not could face harsh treatment.

China’s Communist authorities are keen to stem the violence quickly and regain stability over its remote far-west before the Olympics, which its capital Beijing will host in August.

But the Olympics also makes China more sensitive to international opinion over its policies in Tibet and its response to the unrest, and some activists overseas have demanded the Olympic torch be withdrawn from the mountainous region.


Despite reports that Lhasa was returning to normal, with tight security but schools and businesses operating as usual, overseas groups reported continuing protests in ethnic Tibetan towns and villages in western China.

The Free Tibet Campaign said it had two independent accounts of a peaceful demonstration in the Gansu province town of Gannan, and the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said there had been unrest in a Tibetan area of Sichuan province in which security forces fired on protesters.

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The reports could not be independently confirmed.

Both groups also cited a protest in Bora, near Gannan.

The Dalai Lama called for an end to the violence in Tibetan regions and said on Tuesday he would step down as the head of Tibet’s government-in-exile if that would stop the bloodshed.

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But China’s official Xinhua news agency called Dharamsala an “epicenter of lies”, repeating the assertion from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that there was evidence to show the unrest was “organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique”.

“The Dalai clique maintained real-time contacts, sources say, through varied channels with the rioters in Lhasa, and dictated instructions to his hard core devotees and synchronized their moves,” state news agency Xinhua reported.

The Dalai Lama says the rioting in Lhasa, which followed several days of peaceful marches by Tibet’s Buddhist clergy, was spontaneous.

Editing by Ken Wills