BEIJING (Reuters) - China breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday after no foreign governments called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics over a crackdown on violent protests in Tibet even as it braced for more unrest.
The biggest protests in Tibet in almost two decades have spilled over into nearby Chinese provinces populated by Tibetans in the past week and likely to weigh uncomfortably on China, which is anxious to polish its image in the build-up to the Olympic Games in August.
“There have been absolutely no calls for a boycott, neither emanating from governments,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told Reuters in Trinidad.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in an e-mail late on Monday there had been a fresh demonstration spearheaded by monks of Gaden Choekhor monastery in Linzhou county — Phenpo Lhundup in Tibetan — in the municipality of the regional capital Lhasa.
In a rare show of defiance in the host city for the Olympic Games, a small group of ethnic Tibetan students staged a candle-lit vigil in Beijing on Monday.
The Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala in India has put the death toll in Friday’s protests in Lhasa against Chinese rule at 80.
Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet regional government, said only 13 “innocent civilians” had been killed and dozens of security personnel injured.
It was not immediately clear if any protester had surrendered to the authorities or informed on suspected rioters after the passing of a midnight Monday deadline.
The United States and the European Union have called on China to exercise restraint.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told parliament: “We believe that the way forward is a dialogue between the different parties ... We are calling for both restraint and an end to violence.”
But the U.N. Security Council, of which China is a veto-wielding permanent member, is likely to keep silent about the crackdown, mostly due to worries that provoking Beijing would accomplish nothing, diplomats said.
There have been daily pro-Tibet protests around the world since last Monday. On Sunday, French police used tear gas against around 500 demonstrators at the Chinese embassy in Paris, and there were incidents at missions in New York and Australia.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao denounced the attacks on Chinese missions abroad. Liu said the unrest had been organized by the Dalai Lama’s followers at home and abroad.
The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959, has rejected the allegation that he orchestrated the protests. The Nobel peace laureate says he wants autonomy for Tibet within China but not outright independence.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists urged China to abide by a pledge and allow news coverage in Tibet.
Foreign reporters based in China are barred from the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan region.
PEN centers in the United States, Canada and China denounced “suffocating restrictions” on the press and the flow of information from Tibet.
(Additional reporting by Linda Hutchinson-Jafar in Port of Spain and Louis Charbonneau in the United Nations)
Editing by John Chalmers