First foreign observers into Tibetan capital find city scarred by violence

Foreign observers invited into the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, reported a city badly scarred by days of unrest and a heavy Chinese security presence still highly visible on the streets.

Operating under strictly controlled conditions, a group of 26 international reporters was driven into the city yesterday by the Chinese government as part of an effort to convince the outside world that life there is returning to normal and that Beijing is back in control after facing its most sustained opposition for 20 years.

It was the first time that foreign observers had been allowed in since fierce rioting in protest at Beijing rule left dozens of people dead in Tibet and neighbouring Chinese provinces.

As President George Bush expressed his concern at the military reaction to the protests in a telephone call to the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, increasing the international pressure over human rights in the approach to this summer's Olympic Games, the observers described a city still under siege with heavily armed police in camouflage uniforms stationed outside government buildings and officers patrolling every intersection.

It is more than two weeks since the height of the violence and the Chinese military crackdown in which anti-government campaigners say up to 140 Tibetans died. The unrest prompted Beijing to deploy thousands of troops to the region and order a news blackout on the country's interior. China puts the death toll at 19.

The journalists were flown to the city and taken on a bus tour. Police questioned by reporters said they were carrying out routine vehicle checks for fake licence plates and people travelling without seatbelts.

There were signs of every day life returning. The Potala Palace, the traditional seat of Tibetan power, was re-opened yesterday for the first time since 14 March, while in nearby Potala Square reporters spoke to locals who said that although security continued to be tight, they were allowed to move around the city.

Lhasa also bore scars from the rioting. Just a few blocks from Potala many shops thought to be owned by ethnic Chinese were burnt out. Others, festooned with white ceremonial scarves to signify their owners were Tibetan, remained untouched. On Qingnian Road, a red banner bearing one of President Hu's favourite slogans – Construct a Harmonious Society – remained intact but a two-storey medical clinic on the same road had been destroyed.

The Dalai Lama, who Chinese authorities blame for orchestrating the protests, described yesterday's visit as a "first step", saying he hoped journalists would be allowed to operate "with complete freedom". He added: "Then you can access the real situation."

The White House said that Mr Bush encouraged Mr Hu to engage in "substantive dialogue" with the exiled opposition leader's representatives and to allow the media and diplomats free access to protest areas.

Earlier Chinese state media announced the surrender of more than 600 people who took part in the protests in Lhasa and in Aba county in Sichuan province, home to ethnic Tibetans. But Beijing appeared to have failed to quell the insurrection completely, with reports from the western province of Qinghai of hundreds of civilians staging a sit-down protest after police stopped a march. Paramilitary forces dispersed between 200 and 300 protesters and ordered people to stay inside.

One source told Reuters: "They were beating up monks, which will only infuriate ordinary people."

The violence has prompted growing international condemnation. The head of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, issued an invitation yesterday to the Dalai Lama to address MEPs and paved the way for a vote on a possible partial boycott of the Olympics.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz