China makes arrests in Tibet crackdown

Thursday 20 March 2008 14:37

Tibet authorities said today they had arrested dozens of people involved in a wave of anti-Chinese violence that has swept the mountain region and prompted Beijing to pour in troops to crush further unrest.

China's response to last week's violence - which it says was orchestrated by the exiled Dalai Lama - has sparked international criticism and has clouded preparations for the Beijing Olympics which the hosts hope will be the country's "coming-out party" as a world power.

The prosecutor's office in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, said 24 people faced charges of "endangering national security as well as beating, smashing, looting, arson and other grave crimes" in last Friday's riots, the Tibet Daily reported.

They were the first arrests since rioting erupted across the remote region. Some outside groups say hundreds of Tibetans may have already been detained, and the China News Service reported Lhasa has broadcast wanted pictures of more suspects.

"The facts of the crimes are clear and the evidence is solid, and they should be severely punished," a Lhasa deputy chief prosecutor, Xie Yanjun, said.

He echoed the Chinese government's accusation that it was exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, and his "Dalai clique" who had engineered the violence.

It is a sentiment that resonates with ordinary Chinese.

"I don't think they would do this without any manipulation by the Dalai Lama or some other organisation ... I don't think Tibetan people want independence. Any normal Tibetans would be happy to live under China's rule," said Zhang Ming, 25, a Beijing office worker.

China's unyielding response to the unrest has brought demands for a boycott of the opening ceremony for the August Games from pro-Tibetan independence groups and some politicians.

The Olympic torch relay across 19 countries that starts next week, and which will also pass through Tibet, is also likely to be dogged by protests.

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