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China in Intense Struggle With Dalai Lama Over Tibet

By Stephanie Ho
19 March 2008

China says it is engaged in a life and death struggle with the Dalai Lama over Tibet, following a Chinese crackdown on violent protests there last week. China also rejected calls by international human-rights groups and Tibet activists for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic games. Stephanie Ho reports from the Chinese capital.

Tibet's Communist Party Secretary Zhang Qingli told other officials in Tibet's regional government that China is engaged in a fierce struggle with a group the Chinese government has dubbed the Dalai clique.

He said this struggle involves blood and fire. These are references to last Friday's violent anti-Chinese riots in Lhasa, Tibet's capital. Official numbers say at least 13 innocent people were killed. Tibetan groups say the number is much higher and includes Tibetans killed by Chinese authorities.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of masterminding these protests, and others in Tibetan communities around China, from his home in exile in Dharmsala, India.

Chinese media report that 105 demonstrators have turned themselves in to authorities, nearly a day after a Chinese government deadline for them to do so to avoid harsh punishment.

The Dalai Lama has called for an end to violence, and says he is being made a scapegoat for Beijing's lack of progress in fostering better relations with Tibetans in Tibet.

Because of the chaos in Tibet, international human-rights groups and Tibetan activists are calling for officials and dignitaries to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

The Beijing Olympics organizing committee's Jiang Xiaoyu told reporters a boycott of the opening ceremony would only be the decision of a small number of people or organizations.

He says he hopes most people around the world will make the right decision and participate in the opening ceremony and the games themselves.

Another issue Jiang addressed is the Olympic Torch relay, which will start later this month and will pass through Tibet. He says the situation in Lhasa has been stabilized and so authorities are sticking to their Tibet plans.

He says the highlight of the relay is Chinese plans to take the Olympic flame to Mt. Everest. The Chinese side of the world's tallest mountain is in Tibet. Mountain climbers and torch bearers will begin their attempt in May.

Tibetan activists have protested outside the International Olympic Committee's headquarters in Switzerland, demanding that Tibet and three neighboring provinces with large Tibetan communities be cut from the torch relay route.

The Beijing Olympics organizing committee official said he is aware of the possibility of protests along the 130-day torch route, both inside and outside China.

He says he is confident Chinese authorities will be able to maintain order and stability in China. As for anti-Chinese protests along the torch route outside of China, Jiang says these go against the theme of the relay, which the Chinese are calling the "Journey of Harmony."

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