China intensifies Tibet crackdown

Premier hints at meeting with Dalai Lama as 24 are arrested for "grave crimes".

    State media said "great damage" had been done not just in Tibet but in surrounding areas [AFP]

    Xie Yanjun, the Lhasa deputy chief prosecutor, said "they should be severely punished to protect the strictness of the law".
     
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    "The facts of the crimes are clear and the evidence is solid," he was quoted as saying on the Tibet government website.
     
    "This law-breaking was organised, premeditated and carefully planned by the Dalai Clique. As a law-enforcement body, we will use the facts as the basis for applying the law as a yardstick to resolutely attack the wild arrogance of criminal elements."
     
    The prosecutor's tough words and citing of state security crimes, which usually draw harsh penalties and even execution, come as more government forces were deployed in Tibet and neighbouring provinces with big ethnic Tibetan populations who have mounted the largest protests in 20 years.
     
    Rallies continue
     

    Protests continue despite the
    crackdown [AP/CTV]

    Despite calls for the protests to stop, demonstrations are continuing. In one protest in the western province of Gansu, thousands of ethnic Tibetans tried to storm a government building.
     
    They were filmed tearing down a Chinese flag and replacing it with a Tibetan one. Wen says he wants these sorts of protests to end before he will even consider discussions with the Dalai Lama.
     
    Xinhua, China's state news agency, said 170 Tibetan "rioters" in Lhasa had surrendered by late Wednesday.
     
    Beijing had issued a deadline of midnight on Monday for demonstrators to turn themselves in.
     
    Dalai Lama meeting
     
    Wen made his comments about possibly meeting the Dalai Lama during a telephone conversation with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister.
     
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    But Beijing also expressed "serious concern" about Brown's plans to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits the UK, probably in May.
     
    Speaking in parliament, Brown said he had pressed the Chinese leader to end violence in Tibet.
     
    "The premier told me that, subject to two things that the Dalai Lama has already said, that he does not support the total independence of Tibet and that he renounces violence, he would be prepared to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama," he said.
     
    "I think it is important that we all facilitate discussions but the most important thing at the moment is to being about an end to the violence, reconciliation and to see legitimate talks between those people in China."
     
    Dialogue and probe
     
    The Dalai Lama said in a letter on Wednesday that his government in exile "remain committed to ... pursuing a process of dialogue in order to find a mutually beneficial solution to the Tibetan issue".

    More Chinese forces were deployed in Tibet
    and neighbouring areas on Wednesday [AFP]

    "I also seek the international community's support for our efforts to resolve Tibet's problems through dialogue, and I urge them to call upon the Chinese leadership to exercise the utmost restraint in dealing with the current disturbed situation and to treat those who are being arrested properly and fairly," he wrote.
     
    He repeated his accusation that China was engaged in "cultural genocide" in Tibet, "whether it was intended or not".
     
    He also repeated his call for an international investigation into the unrest.
     
    "Since the Chinese government has accused me of orchestrating these protests in Tibet, I call for a thorough investigation by a respected body, which should include Chinese representatives, to look into these allegations," he said.
     
    "I believe the demonstrations and protests taking place in Tibet are a spontaneous outburst of public resentment built up by years of repression."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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