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China blames Dalai Lama for Tibet violence

RIA Novosti

18/03/2008 09:43 BEIJING, March 18 (RIA Novosti) - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao lashed out at the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, on Tuesday, accusing him of being behind the recent violent demonstrations in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Violence erupted in Lhasa on March 10 as Tibetans gathered to mark the 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising. There are conflicting reports behind the number of deaths, with China saying 13 civilians and 13 members of the security forces died, while exiled Tibetan leaders put the number of civilian deaths at around 80. Many people were also wounded.

"There is plenty of evidence to prove that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and provoked by the Dalai clique," Wen Jiabao said at the close of a session of parliament.

He went on to say that "a small group of insurgents had robbed and even killed peaceful citizens on the streets [of Lhasa]."

The Chinese premier also accused the Dalai Lama of "lies" over claims that he was seeking peaceful dialogue with the Chinese authorities rather than outright independence for Tibet.

"We have said on numerous occasions that if the Dalai Lama ceases his separatist activities...then we are always ready to open the door for negotiations," Wen added.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his insistence on peaceful opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet. He and his supporters have denied the Chinese claims.

The issue of Tibetan autonomy has long threatened to boil over into violent protests. Chinese troops first marched into the Himalayan kingdom in 1950, and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India in 1959, fearing arrest by Chinese authorities. He was accompanied by some 80,000 of his countrymen.

Wen also accused the demonstrators in Tibet of seeking to wreck the upcoming Olympic Games, due to be held in Beijing this summer.

"They wanted to provoke the sabotage of the Olympic Games," he said at a news conference. "We should not politicize the Olympic Games."

The Olympic torch is due to arrive in Tibet in a few weeks time in the build up to the Games.

The International Olympic Committee has said that no country has called for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

A midnight (16:00 GMT) deadline for Tibetan "insurgents" to surrender to authorities passed on Monday night as large groups of police patrolled the streets of Lhasa. The authorities have promised "tougher" punishments for those Tibetan protestors who fail to give themselves up to police. There have been no reports of surrenders.

Pro-Tibet demonstrations have been held in Taiwan. The breakaway island, which China has long sought to return to mainland rule, is set to hold presidential elections on March 22, along with a referendum on United Nations membership under the name of Taiwan rather than its formal title of the Republic of China.

China has long threatened a military invasion if the island announces its full independence.

"Anyone who wants to separate Taiwan from the motherland will not succeed and is doomed to fail," Wen said on Tuesday.

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