China crushes protest by monks in Tibet

Times online, March 11, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet (China) -- China admitted today that it had quashed a protest by Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, underscoring the opposition Beijing still faces to its rule in the remote Himalayan region.

<< Monks take part in a peace march in Dharamsala, India, part of worldwide protests to mark the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

Tibetans all over the world took to the streets yesterday to commemorate the 49th anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule and to press their demand for independence ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Among them, according to a report on Radio Free Asia, were up to 300 protesters who tried to march from Drepung monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa to the symbolic Potala Palace in the city centre.

Asked about the report, Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters: “Yesterday afternoon some monks in Lhasa, abetted by a small handful of people, did some illegal things that challenged social stability.

“As for how to deal with these detained Tibetans, they have been dealt with according to the law."

The report by the US government-funded broadcaster said between 50 and 60 of the marchers were arrested as police and paramilitary police blocked roads and encircled other monasteries around Lhasa to prevent the protests from growing.

Eleven other demonstrators managed to stage a protest in central Lhasa, but they were also arrested, according to the report, citing sources in the city who asked to remain anonymous.

The demonstrations coincided with the 49th anniversary of the crushing of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule by the People’s Liberation Army of China. Exiled Tibetans staged high-profile protests around the world to mark the day.

Chinese troops killed tens of thousands of Tibetans as they quashed the 1959 uprising, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile’s website. Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled his homeland following the uprising.

China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after sending troops in to “liberate” it, and continues to denounce the Dalai Lama for what it says are his efforts to seek independence for his homeland.

The Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, insists he is not pushing for independence, rather an end to Chinese repression and a return to cultural autonomy. In a speech to coincide with the uprising anniversary, the Dalai Lama yesterday attacked China’s human rights record and accused Chinese authorities of "unimaginable and gross violations” in his homeland.

“For nearly six decades Tibetans have had to live in a state of constant fear under Chinese repression,” the 72-year-old said from his base in Dharamshala, India. Meanwhile, hundreds of Tibetan exiles defied an Indian police ban on an historic six-month trek to their homeland as part of pro-independence protests ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman did not say what fate the protesting monks in Lhasa may face, but other people voicing dissent against Chinese rule in Tibet have previously been handed long jail terms.

Among the high-profile cases, a number of nuns were given jail terms of up to 15 years after they secretly recorded songs in 1993 about the Dalai Lama on a tape that was smuggled out and reached the West. Human rights groups say that even carrying images of the Dalai Lama in Tibet can lead to harsh punishments.