April 14, 2008 / 1:18 AM / 12 years ago

China says firearms found in Tibetan temple

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese forces found firearms hidden throughout a Tibetan temple in an ethnic Tibetan area of southwestern China which has been the scene of anti-Chinese riots in recent weeks, state television said.

A view of weapons and ammunition found in the Kirti Monastery of the Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province March 28, 2008, in this picture distributed by China's official Xinhua News Agency. Chinese forces found firearms hidden throughout a Tibetan temple in an ethnic Tibetan area of southwestern China which has been the scene of anti-Chinese riots in recent weeks, state television said. REUTERS/Xinhua

And Chinese police detained five air passengers, possibly Tibetans, whose “suspicious remarks” prompted the return of their flight half an hour after take-off from the southern city of Shenzhen, a newspaper reported.

Police, responding to what they said was a tip-off from the public, found 30 firearms in the monastery in Aba prefecture of Sichuan province last month, state television said in a report, a transcript of which was posted on its Web site ( http://www.cctv.com ).

“At the time these firearms were scattered around, some were where the monks keep the scriptures,” policeman Lan Bo told the program. “They were modified semi-automatic weapons.”

Aba has seen confrontations between police and Tibetan protesters who, along with Tibetans in Tibet proper, have been protesting against China’s rule and calling for the return of the exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama.

Protesters have also disrupted the global torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the torch passed through Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar Es Salaam peacefully on Sunday.

The official People’s Daily newspaper accused Western media of distorting protests against the relay and playing up their scale.

It also lashed out at the European Parliament for failing to condemn the “Dalai clique”, which China accuses of being behind March 14 riots in Lhasa in which it says 19 people were killed. Exiled Tibetans give a far higher death toll.

“People cannot help but ask: the European Parliament always brags about human rights and freedom, so why does it turn a deaf ear to the serious human rights abuse of attacks on and killings of innocent people in Tibet?”

RIFLES AND KNIVES

China’s ambassador to Ireland walked out on a speech on Saturday in which Environment Minister John Gormley accused China of human rights abuses in Tibet. And visiting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf opposed the West’s “superimposition” of democratic values and human rights on China.

“We condemn any attempt by anyone to undermine the process of Olympic preparations, especially the Olympic torch (relay),” Musharraf told the China Daily.

He ensured students and academics in Beijing the torch would be safe when it reached Pakistan. “Tibet is an inalienable part of China,” he said in a speech.

The temple in which state television said the weapons were found was named by the program in Chinese as Geerdeng.

In a recent visit to western Gansu province, officials showed reporters a film including weapons seized from demonstrators, including a few hunting rifles, many Tibetan knives, and lassos. No demonstrators shown on the films were armed.

China has tightened security of its airways ahead of the Olympics and says it foiled a plot last month by Muslim Uighur separatists to blow up a plane.

The Southern Metropolis Daily said on Monday police detained five passengers whose remarks prompted the return of their flight after take-off in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen en route to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan.

The five talked in a language “others could not understand”, the newspaper said on its Web site (www.nddaily.com). A caption said police were checking “several Tibetans who made the remarks”.

One of them smiled at a flight attendant and said to her “Read the news tomorrow”, it quoted a witness as saying.

“Perhaps it was this sentence that caused alarm among the crew,” the witness was quoted as saying.

Slideshow (18 Images)

China has accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the violence in Tibet and other Tibetan areas of the country.

But the Dalai Lama has rejected the accusations, speaking out against the use of violence, calling for talks with China and backing the Beijing Olympics.

Chinese media has mentioned the Dalai Lama’s announced support for Beijing holding the Olympics, but has then immediately condemned him for being insincere.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, additional reporting by Lucy Hornby and Guo Shipeng; Editing by Nick Macfie and Sanjeev Miglani

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