Chinese Police Tighten Grip on Tibet's Capital

Dalai Lama Seeks Independent Investigation Into Deadly Riots

By Jill Drew
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, March 17, 2008

BEIJING, March 16 -- Chinese police tightened their hold on Tibet's capital and heavily Tibetan areas in neighboring provinces Sunday, but sporadic violence in the region continued, according to reports from the affected areas.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader living in exile in India, called for an independent investigation into deadly riots Friday in Lhasa, the worst outbreak of violence in the remote mountainous region in nearly 20 years.

Speaking at a news conference in the northern Indian city of Dharmsala, the Dalai Lama rejected Chinese claims that he was to blame for the violence and suggested instead that the Chinese were committing "cultural genocide."

"The local leaders simply rely on the use of force in order to have stability and peace," he said. "This is rule of terror."

The Dalai Lama's spokesman said earlier in the day that 80 people were killed and 72 injured, mostly Tibetans, in last week's clashes.

[Tibet's governor, Champa Phuntsok, on Monday put the death toll at 13, the Associated Press reported.]

Chinese officials have said many of the dead were businesspeople.

Neither figure could be independently verified because travel to Tibet is heavily restricted even in the best of times. After protests against Chinese rule began there last Monday, local officials suspended all entry permits.

One Chinese government official in Tibet said the claim of genocide was "downright nonsense." The state-controlled New China News Agency reported that police exercised "great restraint" on Friday while mobs stoned, stabbed and clubbed them and other residents, using a "shocking degree of cruelty" that the Chinese blame on the Dalai Lama.

The government news service also reported Sunday that some shops had reopened and cars were back on the streets in Lhasa. But residents contacted by phone said that dozens of armed police officers and military vehicles were patrolling the streets and that they were too afraid to go outside.

Hong Kong Cable TV broadcast video from the city center Sunday showing mostly empty streets. Messages broadcast over loudspeakers warned residents to "discern between enemies and friends, maintain order," the Associated Press reported. Tibet officials have warned rioters to turn themselves in before midnight Monday for any chance at leniency.

The manager of a small, family-owned hotel said in a telephone interview that two Chinese guests who had left to visit a small monastery before the riots still had not returned. The manager said the guests told him by phone that they were too afraid to go out and that monks had agreed to shelter and feed them.

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