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China Accuses Tibetan Protesters of Killing Innocent People

By Stephanie Ho
15 March 2008

China is accusing rioters in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa of killing at least 10 people in violent protests Friday. The demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet were the worst there in nearly two decades. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

An uneasy calm hung over Lhasa Saturday, as a strong Chinese security presence helped maintain order. Sites in the center of the city are blocked off to the public and witnesses report few people out on the streets.

This is in sharp contrast to Friday, when much of the downtown part of the city was on fire.

There is no question there was violence. The issue is what exactly happened?

China's official Xinhua news agency is portraying Friday's riot as the work of "violent saboteurs." Xinhua blames rioters for engaging in pre-meditated violence and killing at least 10 innocent people.

Top officials in Tibet's government accuse exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of plotting the violence as part of what they describe as "separatist sabotage."

The Dalai Lama has been negotiating with Chinese officials for autonomy for Tibet, within China, but Beijing accuses him of seeking independence.

Norde is a delegate to China's legislature from Qinghai province, which has a large ethnic Tibetan population. He says China will never let Tibet become independent.

Norde blamed the recent unrest in Lhasa on what he described as "a small number of enemy forces at home and overseas." He said they are not supported by the Tibetans in Qinghai.

This is counter to the accounts of Tibet activists, such as the International Campaign for Tibet's Jan Willem den Besten. He says the anti-Chinese sentiment has been spreading to other ethnic Tibetan communities in China, not just in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), itself.

"We follow events as we get information, but it's also very significant to see there is a response to events in rural areas, in areas outside the TAR, in the provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai," he said.

He says the unrest is an indication of a growing sense of despair and frustration among ordinary Tibetans, who he says have been subject to harsher Chinese restrictions on religious freedom in recent years.

From his home in exile, in Dharmsala, India, the Dalai Lama appealed for both sides not to resort to violence.

Chinese law enforcement authorities are offering leniency for the demonstrators if they turn themselves in by Tuesday. Otherwise, the official notice warns, they will be "severely punished."

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