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Tibet speaker: Dalai Lama not behind riots

  • Story Highlights
  • Speaker-in-exile says unrest was in response to China's hard-line rule
  • Chinese state media accuses Dalai Lama of closing the door to talks on Tibet
  • Speaker says brutal subjugation of Tibet people going on now
  • Chinese premier: Lhasa is "basically stable," "social order has returned to normal"
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BEIJING, China (AP) -- The speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile denied China's allegations that the Dalai Lama and his supporters instigated recent riots in the Himalayan region and said a "brutal" crackdown by Chinese security forces was continuing.

art.potala.palace.ap.jpg

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard at a square by the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

Karma Chophel, speaking at a press conference in Rome on Sunday, said the unrest was a response by Tibetans to China's hard-line rule over the region, and not fomented by the Tibetan spiritual leader or other exiles.

"Those who know the true fact of the matter know that clearly this is a genuine outcry and outburst of Chinese misrule over the Tibetan people," Chophel said. "Our demand is that (an) independent, neutral, unbiased, international group should go into Tibet and try to find out the real situation."

Demonstrations started peacefully among Buddhist monks but turned deadly on March 14 in the capital Lhasa and other heavily Tibetan areas. Beijing says 22 people were killed in Lhasa, most of them ethnic Han and Muslim Chinese migrants, while Tibetan exiles put the overall death toll at 140.

Chopel said Sunday violence was continuing in Tibetan areas and urged the international community to do more to stop it.

"According to very reliable sources a very, very brutal subjugation of the Tibetan people is going on in Tibet now," he said. "China is waiting to label Tibetans as terrorists and try to legitimize their crackdown internationally." He called for an end to the crackdown, the release of those arrested, and access to medical treatment for those injured in the demonstrations. Photo See images of protests in Tibet »

China's Premier Wen Jiabao said during a visit Sunday to Laos that Lhasa was "basically stable" and "social order has returned to normal."

China also voiced its "strong dissatisfaction" over a European Union foreign ministers' discussion of the situation in Tibetan populated areas during a meeting in Slovenia.

"The Tibet issue is completely China's internal affairs. No foreign countries or international organizations have the right to interfere in it," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

In a barrage of criticism of the Dalai Lama, Xinhua accused him of closing the door on talks over Tibet's future -- an apparent response to rising international calls for Beijing to negotiate with Tibetans' exiled Buddhist leader.

The United States and other foreign governments have urged Beijing to talk with the Dalai Lama, who has repeatedly said he would be willing to meet with Chinese officials.

Beijing has imposed a massive military clampdown in Tibet and other areas of China inhabited by Tibetans, and despite an organized trip last week for foreign journalists and diplomats, a new protest reportedly broke out Saturday in Lhasa as the diplomats wrapped up their visit. Video Watch a report on a media tour to Lhasa »

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said the protest took place after armed police moved into Tibetan neighborhoods in central parts of the city. People "started running in all directions, and shouting," the group said in an e-mailed statement.

Independent verification of the protest could not be obtained.

Officials with Lhasa's municipal government described the city as calm Sunday and said they were sending text messages to residents telling them not to "believe or pass on rumors of unrest."

The violence has been a public relations disaster for communist leaders who want to use the Beijing Olympics to showcase China as a prosperous, stable society.

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The Olympic torch arrives in Beijing on Monday before it begins its journey around the globe, but its weeklong relay in Greece has already been disrupted by protests by Tibet activists.

Some 21 demonstrators were detained in Greece as the torch was handed over to Beijing Olympic organizers Sunday before being flown to China. The protesters chanted "Save Tibet" and unfurled a banner that read "Stop Genocide in Tibet." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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