Peking tightens security in Tibet

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The Independent Online
TWO MONKS have been detained in Lhasa for daring to shout pro- independence slogans to mark the 40th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising which forced the Dalai Lama into exile.

A strict security regime remained in force throughout China's Himalayan region yesterday, as Peking dismissed pleas from the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader that dialogue was the only way to resolve the Tibet issue.

Reports from Lhasa said that on Wednesday, the day of the anniversary, two monks in their late twenties shouted slogans in the Barkhor, the spiritual centre of the Tibetan capital, near the Jokhang temple. Police pounced, arresting one man immediately, and detaining the other as he attempted to escape. Riot police, vehicles and dogs appeared half an hour later.

The London-based Free Tibet Campaign spoke to witnesses who said the Jokhang had been closed for "cleaning" and watchers had been posted in the area. Monks in the monasteries of Ganden, Drepung and Sera were prevented from leaving, the group said.

Peking yesterday renewed its verbal assault on the Dalai Lama, with China's Foreign Ministry spokesman saying he continued "stubbornly" to push for independence and was "creating obstacles" to contact with Peking. "He has never stopped activities aimed at splitting the motherland," Zhu Bangzao said.

The harsh propaganda contrasted sharply with a dignified and heartfelt speech by the Dalai Lama to mark the anniversary of the uprising against Chinese rule. He confirmed that informal channels of contact with Peking "through private persons and semi-officials" had suddenly closed last year.

"Late last autumn, without any obvious reason, there was a noticeable hardening of the Chinese position on dialogue and their attitude towards me. This abrupt change was accompanied by a new round of intensified repression in Tibet," he said.

Before China turned its back on dialogue, Peking seemed ready to moderate its position on Tibet. President Jiang Zemin spoke openly of dialogue during President Bill Clinton's state visit last June. The Dalai Lama's aides even mooted the idea of a spiritual pilgrimage to China.

Yesterday, the Dalai Lama again stated that he was seeking only "genuine autonomy". "I do not seek independence for Tibet ... A just and fair solution to the issue of Tibet will enable me to give full assurance that I will use my moral authority to persuade the Tibetans not to seek separation," he said. But he added that "the Chinese leadership is sometimes hindered by its own suspicions".

It is widely believed that China now has no real interest in opening a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, and its current policy is to contain Tibet until the exiled 67-year-old leader dies.