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Government leader in Tibet confirms protests by monks in
AP March 11, 2008
The head of China's regional government in Tibet confirmed
Tuesday that about 300 Tibetan monks staged a protest march this
week in the capital of Lhasa but said authorities diffused the
incident without arrests.
The march Monday was one of the boldest public challenges to
China's rule in nearly two decades, but Champa Phuntsok,
chairman of the Tibetan government, said it was resolved without
incident. The monks from Drepung monastery outside Lhasa set off
on their march to the city on the anniversary of a failed
Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule in 1959.
Phunstok also confirmed a smaller protest at which nine monks
shouted slogans near a main temple. The U.S. government-funded
Radio Free Asia and an overseas Tibetan Web site, phayul.com,
had earlier reported the demonstrations.
Phunstok said an unspecified number of marchers were brought
in for questioning and were released shortly after.
"It's really nothing," he told The Associated Press on the
sidelines of National People's Congress, China's annual
legislative session. There was no way of independently
confirming Phunstok's comments.
Drepung was sealed off Tuesday and increased numbers of armed
police guarded temples in and around Lhasa, according to Radio
Free Asia and phayul.com Web site, which is run by Tibetan
Up to 71 people, mostly monks, were detained following the
protests, they said.
Always edgy about protests in frequently restive Tibet, China
is particularly nervous in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in
August. Tibetan exiles and their supporters have tried to draw
the Olympic spotlight to China's often harsh 57-year rule over
the Himalayan region.
Meanwhile, several hundred Tibetan exiles tried to march to
Tibet from Dharmsala, India, where their spiritual leader, the
Dalai Lama, has presided over a government-in-exile since the
abortive 1959 uprising.
The activists started their march Monday, but police told
them they were banned from leaving the area. However, they
resumed their march on Tuesday.
Monday's Lhasa protests are believed to be the largest
demonstrations in the city since Beijing crushed a wave of
pro-independence demonstrations in 1989. Since then, China has
pumped investment into the region, vilified the Dalai Lama and
tried to weed out his supporters among the influential Buddhist
clergy _ moves that have alienated some Tibetans.