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Chinese authorities arrest more than 400 over Tibet riots

RIA Novosti

09/04/2008 16:32 HEZUO (China, Gansu province), April 9 (RIA Novosti) - Authorities in China's Gansu province have detained 432 people, including 170 monks, for involvement in violent protests against Chinese rule in Tibet in mid-March, a local official said on Wednesday.

Unrest began on March 10 when Buddhist monks in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, held a demonstration marking the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Exiled Tibetans say Chinese forces cracked down brutally on the demonstrations, killing around 140 people. Beijing says only 18 people were killed, many of them Han Chinese murdered by Tibetan separatists. Riots spread from Tibet itself to surrounding provinces, including Gansu.

As the disturbances continued, law enforcement authorities announced that they would offer "leniency to those who surrender themselves."

The head of the Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Mao Shengwu, said on Wednesday that 2204 participants in the unrest had turned themselves in, but that the majority of these had later been released.

"However, some of the offenders are still free, that is why our province is temporarily closed for tourists," he added.

China denied entry to Tibet for tourists and foreign journalists during the unrest. The restrictions on Tibet itself have now been lifted.

The world's most populous country has accused the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Dalai Lama, of being behind the violence. Communist Party Secretary Zhang Qingli branded him "a wolf in monk's robes, a devil with a human face, but the heart of a beast."

The Dalai Lama has denied that he organized the riots.

Last month, the European Parliament's president spoke of the possibility of a boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games over China's heavy-handed response to recent protests in Tibet. The Olympic torch has been met by protestors in London, Paris and San Francisco.

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