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Tibet governor says 953 detained for riots

Pro-Tibet demonstrators attend a rally at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, California April 8, 2008. The group was protesting the arrival of the Olympic Torch, which will be run through the streets of San Francisco on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained 953 people suspected of involvement in riots in Tibet last month, the head of the Himalayan region said on Wednesday but added that they were a minority who did not represent the Tibetan people.

Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, told a news conference in Beijing that prosecutors had also issued arrest warrants for 403 of those detained, a step that generally leads to formal prosecution.

But he added the rioters were only “an extremely tiny minority” of Tibetans and the monks who took part in protests were also “an extremely tiny minority” of the Buddhist clergy.

“They do not, and cannot, represent Tibet and the Tibetan people,” he added.

China has blamed Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for monk-led protests that turned violent in Tibet’s regional capital, Lhasa, last month. The unrest spilled over into nearby Chinese provinces that have large Tibetan populations.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, has denied the accusation.

The government had called on rioters to turn themselves in, in return for lenient treatment, and Qiangba Puncog said 362 people voluntarily went to the police.

Some 328 were then released on the grounds that their crimes were light and they had a “good attitude” in confessing them, although it was not clear if the remaining 34 were included in the 953 detainees.

Police have also issued warrants for 93 suspects, 13 of whom have been caught and nine who gave themselves in.

Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim and Guo Shipeng; Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Ken Wills