China Moves to Tighten Control Over Religion in Tibet

In countries all over the world, protesters take to the streets to oppose Chinese rule of Tibet after demonstrations in the province turned violent. [Editor's note: The caption for an earlier version of this slideshow was incorrectly associated with a photo from Nepal. This version has been corrected.]

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By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BEIJING, March 25 -- China's security chief called for stepping up "patriotic education" in Tibet's monasteries, the state-run Tibet Daily said Tuesday, as prosecutors for the first time charged demonstrators in the largely peaceful, monk-led protests that later exploded into riots in the region.

Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu led the first high-level central government visit to Tibet since the riots broke out this month. In the face of international criticism of China's crackdown, he stressed that the government would "fight an active publicity battle" and solicit the help of Communist Party cadres.

His call for broader "patriotic education" indicated the party would also move to exert greater control over religion in Tibet, requiring more Tibetans to accept the region as an inalienable part of China, denounce the Dalai Lama as a separatist and recognize the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama. Such campaigns were first launched in 1996.

Angered by foreign sympathy for the protesters and support for the Dalai Lama, China is bearing down hard on the exiled Tibetan religious leader, blaming him and his followers for stirring up trouble in an effort to sabotage the Beijing Olympics in August.

The Chinese crackdown has drawn international concern, with some government leaders suggesting a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Games. On Tuesday, when asked about the possibility, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "All options are open, and I appeal to the Chinese leaders' sense of responsibility." He added that he had sent a message to Chinese President Hu Jintao noting his concern over the violence.

The European Parliament, whose president has said a boycott should be considered, has scheduled a special debate on the Tibet situation for Wednesday in Brussels.

Despite a heavy police and military presence across China, protests continue to spread through regions that border Tibet. On Tuesday in Sichuan province, where at least one policeman had been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters a day earlier, an estimated 400 to 500 Tibetan monks and others gathered in the main street of Luhuo, a restaurant owner said in a telephone interview.

According to the owner, who gave his surname as Yan, police quickly disrupted the gathering, but the atmosphere was still "very tense."

"Most shops are closed, including my restaurant," he said. "I have been here for 17 years and I have never seen anything like this."

The New China News Agency identified the policeman killed Monday in Sichuan's Garze prefecture as Wang Guochuan. Wang was killed by a mob wielding stones and knives, according to the report.

"The police were forced to fire warning shots, and dispersed the lawless mobsters," the agency said.

The government says at least 22 people have died in Tibet since the violence broke out; Tibetan rights groups say nearly 140 Tibetans have been killed in Tibet and surrounding provinces.

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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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