Nearly 1,000 in Lhasa, Provinces Are Reported to Have Surrendered

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 27, 2008

BEIJING, March 26 -- Chinese state media reported Wednesday that nearly 1,000 people have surrendered to police following riots and protests in Tibet and neighboring provinces as Chinese officials tried to demonstrate control over the unrest.

A small group of overseas journalists touched down in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, on the first government-led tour since China on March 15 closed the tightly restricted region to foreigners. [The tour was disrupted Thursday by a group of about 30 monks, who complained that there was no religious freedom in Tibet and that the Dalai Lama was not to blame for recent violence there, the Associated Press reported.]

The Washington Post was not on the trip, despite requests to the government to be included.

Meanwhile, after two weeks of silence on Tibet, President Bush telephoned Chinese President Hu Jintao to express concern about conditions there, urge the Chinese to engage in a sustained dialogue with the Dalai Lama's representatives and allow access to diplomats and journalists.

Briefing reporters, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said the leaders had a "lengthy exchange" on the issue. "The president pushed very hard on . . . the need for restraint," Hadley said.

In China, the official New China News Agency said 280 people turned themselves in to police in Lhasa, where largely peaceful, monk-led protests March 10 gave way to rioting, looting and arson by angry Tibetans on March 14.

Another 289 people surrendered in the Gannan Tibetan autonomous area of southwestern Gansu province, where protests later spread, the China News Service and the Gansu Daily said. And 381 people in Aba county in northern Sichuan turned themselves in, the New China News Agency reported.

"If those are the official statistics, the real numbers are going to be much higher than that," said Kate Saunders, communications director for the International Campaign for Tibet. She said witnesses told her organization they saw several hundred Tibetans being herded onto a train in Lhasa in what appeared to be the removal of prisoners to other cities.

Police also published a "most wanted" list of 53 people accused of roles in the riots. At least 22 people have died in the violence, according to the Chinese government; Tibetan rights groups say nearly 140 Tibetans in the region have been killed.

At a news conference, experts from the government-established China Tibetology Research Center echoed leaders in Beijing in accusing the Dalai Lama of deliberately sparking the protests to separate Tibet from China and sabotage the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics.

Lhagpa Phuntshogs, general director of the center, said the violence had been instigated by a handful of Lhasa's 46,000 monks who had been misled by the Dalai Lama, his political supporters and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Even though the Lhasa riots were "carefully premeditated and organized" by the Dalai Lama, he added, "so long as the Dalai Lama abandons his separatist position, stops all separatist activities and recognizes Tibet and Taiwan as part of China, the door for consultation and dialogue between him and the central government is always open."

Lian Xiangmin, a professor and director of the center's Research Projects Office, responded to a question about whether China was afraid of the Dalai Lama by saying: "I do not think I said the Dalai is highly violent, and I also believe that so long as 1.3 billion Chinese people are united as one, they will fear no one."

A Western analyst who watches Chinese politics closely said the scholars seemed to try to strike a moderate tone. "There is some daylight here," the analyst said.

But Shi Yinhong, a People's University professor and expert on international relations, was less optimistic. "Before March 14th, there may have been a possibility of dialogue between the government and the Dalai Lama," Shi said. But after the riots, "that possibility shrank greatly, to nearly zero. What the Tibetan experts said today is softer but not as important as what the Tibet Daily says."

Wednesday's Tibet Daily, a government newspaper, editorialized: "The Dalai Lama is a criminal of all time who sabotaged ethnic harmony."

Staff writer Michael Abramowitz in Washington contributed to this report.

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