Unrest on the Roof of the World China Takes Hard Line After Riots in Tibet

Chinese officials seem in no mood to negotiate with Tibetans on Wednesday, as they reaffirm a controversial route for the Olympic torch and attack the Dalai Lama.


Chinese soldiers sat on an armored vehicle as they patrolled the streets of Lhasa, Tibet on Sunday.
REUTERS

Chinese soldiers sat on an armored vehicle as they patrolled the streets of Lhasa, Tibet on Sunday.

Violent protests in Lhasa will not change the planned route of the Olympic torch relay, Chinese officials said Wednesday, reaffirming that the torch will wind up Mount Everest and through Tibet this spring on its way to the Beijing Olympics.

"The Tibet leg of the torch relay will proceed as scheduled," said Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, at a news conference. "We firmly believe that the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region will be able to ensure the smooth going of the torch relay in Tibet."

The route of the torch relay is controversial, especially now that violence in Lhasa has embarrassed Chinese authorities ahead of the Summer Olympics. Tibetan activists say the torch route is a ploy by China to legitimize its 57-year rule over Tibet.

Protests against Chinese control broke out last week in Lhasa, Tibet's capital. The demonstrations turned into riots, and led to a violent crackdown by the Chinese military. Tibetan sources say 99 people were killed; Chinese sources claim 16 people died in the riots. Details are scarce because Beijing has maintained a news blackout in Tibet, but the violence has marred China's effort to orchestrate an uncontroversial, non-political Olympic Games.

Chinese state media reported that over 100 protesters from Lhasa have met a deadline to turn themselves in and win a measure of leniency from police. Confirmation of the report was impossible, but China has promised harsh punishment for protesters who refused to surrender, and activists in Lhasa say police were searching homes to root protesters out.

The Tibetan leader-in-exile and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the Dalai Lama, has denied accusations by Beijing that he orchestrated last week's protests. But Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reiterated those claims on Wednesday, and China's head of Tibet's Communist Party, Zhang Qingli, called the Dalai Lama "a wolf in a monk's robe, a devil with the face of a man but with the heart of a beast," according to the Associated Press.

msm/ap

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