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China says 660 People Surrender, Escorts Foreign Journalists to Tibet

By Daniel Schearf
26 March 2008

China's state media has said more than 600 people have surrendered to authorities after a series of demonstrations by Tibetans against Chinese rule turned violent. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China's official Xinhua news agency says 280 people turned themselves in to police in Tibet's capital Lhasa, while another 381 surrendered in southwest Sichuan province.

Chinese authorities had been demanding Tibetans give themselves up after taking part in protests, a riot, and clashes with police.

The Chinese government says rioters killed 19 civilians and a policeman, and says hundreds more were injured as demonstrations and clashes spread to neighboring provinces.

Tibet's government in exile says 140 people were killed in the clashes and the police crackdown. Beijing admits police fired on protesters, but says it was in self-defense and only four people were injured and none killed.

While many countries have called for China to exercise restraint, Beijing has blamed Tibet's exiled spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Dalai Lama, for instigating the violence.

Qin Gang is a spokesman for China's foreign ministry.

Qin says the Dalai Lama and his suppo rters willfully plotted, incited, planned, and organized the violence. He says their purpose was to divide China, harm its sovereignty and territorial integrity and social stability, and threaten the lives and property of locals.

Despite Beijing's attempts to brand the Dalai Lama a villain, even government-backed scholars admit the Buddhist leader is still widely revered among Tibetans.

is Director of the Institute of Religious Studies at the China Tibet Research Center.

He says Buddhists in Tibet have a very strong faith and they have very strong feelings for the living Buddha in Tibetan Buddhism. But he adds those feelings have been exploited by some people for their own purposes.

Tibetans demonstrated in Lhasa on March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising led by the Dalai Lama against heavy-handed Chinese rule. The largely peaceful protests turned into a riot on March 14 with buildings burned and shops looted.

It was not clear what turned the protests from peaceful to violent and none of the casualty figures have been independently verified.

The Chinese government had until today refused foreign journalists access to Tibet and other areas where clashes and demonstrations took place.

Chinese authorities are escorting a group of foreign journalists to Tibet for a three-day reporting trip. Qin says they will arrange interviews with victims of the violence and for journalists to see damage caused by rioters so they can learn what he says is the truth about the incident.

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