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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot