ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 23, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 43

Defiant Beijing says no to dialogue with Dalai Lama

Tibetan activists in exile shout slogans as they take part in a protest in New Delhi. AFP

BEIJING, Saturday (AFP) - China turned its back today on appeals for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, vowing to smash anti-China forces in Tibet, where it said the death toll in recent unrest had risen to 19.

A day after Beijing launched a manhunt for monks and others it blamed for unrest in Tibet, an editorial in the People's Daily, mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist party, said opposition to Chinese rule in the Himalayan region must be wiped out.

“China must resolutely crush the conspiracy of sabotage and smash 'Tibet independence forces',” the newspaper said in the editorial, rejecting calls from US, European and Asian leaders for talks.

The commentary accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding protests in Tibet in the hope of undermining the August 8-24 Beijing Olympics and gaining Tibet independence from Beijing. It said, “1.3 billion Chinese people, including the Tibetan people, would allow no person or force to undermine the stability of the region.”

The commentary effectively rebuffed growing international calls for dialogue to end the crackdown on protests that began last week to mark the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Beijing's rule of Tibet. Earlier today, China said 18 “innocent” civilians and one police officer were killed in rioting in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, raising its official death toll from 13.

Tibet's government-in-exile in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala has put the toll from a week of unrest across the Himalayan region and neighbouring provinces at 99. On Friday, leaders in Japan and Poland joined an international appeal for restraint and dialogue. Polish President Lech Kaczynski said China should talk to the Dalai Lama, as it prepared to host the Olympic Games.

“The opening of peaceful dialogue now would have a symbolic dimension, especially in the context of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing,” said Kaczynski.
The Olympics is less than five months away and the symbolic start to events leading up to the Beijing Games is scheduled to take place in Greece on Monday when the Olympic flame is ignited.

The so-called sacred Olympic flame is to be lit at a 30-minute ritual in Mount Olympia in Greece in the presence of International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, whose organisation has been sharply criticised for its silence on the Tibet crackdown.

Greek police told AFP that “stringent security” would be applied to deter anti-China protests during the ceremony. After a tour of Greece, the flame will travel to Beijing for an official send-off ceremony on March 31 for the torch relay on its journey across five continents. It then returns to China in May and the start of a domestic leg that includes three days in Tibet in mid-June after a scheduled stop on the summit of Mount Everest in May.

Pro-Tibet groups have said that they are planning protests along the international route of the torch relay and also in China. China insists such protests run counter to the Olympic Charter, which opposes using the Games for political propaganda. “Those who plan to hold protests to disrupt the torch relay are challenging the Olympic Charter and all those who love the Olympic movement around the world, as well as people who love peace and friendship,” said Beijing Olympic organising committee vice-president Jiang Xiaoyu.

Protests have already taken place in many parts of the world and continued Saturday when 600 people took to the streets of Tokyo to denounce the crackdown.
On Friday protesters in Paris burned Chinese flags while demonstrators in New Delhi stormed the Chinese embassy. US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded that China come clean on repression in Tibet.

“The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world,” said Pelosi, who was greeted in Dharamsala by thousands of flag-waving Tibetan exiles as she arrived for talks Friday with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader. “What is happening, the world needs to know,” she said.

However, China has responded to the protests with a massive clampdown on the affected areas, and on Friday released a most-wanted list of 19 people caught on film taking part in the Lhasa riots, amid warnings by activist groups of harsh reprisals.

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