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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 11:54 GMT
China raps Olympic torch protest
A protester broke through security and attempted to display a flag while China's representative spoke - 24/03/2008
Protesters briefly ran behind Beijing's envoy at the ceremony
China has condemned a protest over Tibet at the Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece on Monday.

In the first reaction from Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said any attempt to disrupt the torch relay for the Olympic Games was shameful.

During the ceremony, campaigners broke through police lines and unfurled a Tibetan flag before being dragged away.

Meanwhile there are reports of more violence in and around Tibet, and the police are continuing to make arrests.

State media reported 13 arrests in Lhasa linked to protests that took place before the anti-Chinese rioting began.

Any act to disrupt the Olympic torch relay is shameful and unpopular
Qin Gang,
Chinese spokesman
Officials also reported a clash on Monday in Sichuan province, which they said left a policeman dead.

Tibet's government-in-exile said on Tuesday that it could confirm 140 people had died in the recent violence - an increase of 10 from Monday. China has reported 19 deaths.

Independent confirmation of either figure is impossible to obtain. Foreign journalists remain barred from Tibet and neighbouring areas to which the protests have spread.

'Unpopular'

China's Xinhua news agency has described Monday's torch-lighting ceremony at Olympia as "flawless".

But at a regular press conference in Beijing, spokesman Qin Gang acknowledged the presence of the pro-Tibet activists.

TIBET DIVIDE
map
China says Tibet was always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th century
1950: China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India

"Any act to disrupt the Olympic torch relay is shameful and unpopular," he said.

Rights groups say they are planning further protests along the route, but the spokesman said each country hosting a leg of the torch relay had an obligation to ensure it passed off smoothly.

The spokesman also said that about a dozen foreign journalists would be allowed into Tibet on Wednesday.

The group, who do not include the BBC, would be allowed to interview "victims of criminal acts", he said.

Earlier, Chinese authorities in Tibet said they had formalised the arrest of 13 people for taking part in monk-led demonstrations in Lhasa on 10 March.

According to the Tibet Daily, the 13 were part of a crowd protesting near one of Lhasa's main monasteries, yelling "reactionary slogans" and holding a banner.

The report did not say whether those held were Tibetan monks.

'Reliable information'

Chinese media reported a fresh outbreak of violence in Sichuan province on Monday.

Xinhua said one Chinese policeman was killed and several others were injured during clashes in Garze prefecture.

Police "were forced to fire warning shots, and dispersed the lawless mobsters", the agency quoted a local official as saying.

It did not say whether any civilians were hurt, but a rights group said that at least one Tibetan died in the clashes.

In Dharamsala, the Tibetan government-in-exile said its updated death toll of 140 came from sources in Tibet and represented information as of Monday night.

In a statement on its website, it also released names of 40 people it said were killed in the protests.

It had "reliable information" on other casualties but would gather more comprehensive information before revealing their names, it said.

Chinese and Tibetan sources have given very different accounts of the protests in the past few days.

Chinese authorities have accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the unrest, partly in an attempt to sabotage the Beijing Olympics.

They accuse foreign media of misrepresenting government efforts to restore order as a military crackdown.

But the Tibetan government-in-exile says innocent civilians have been killed by Chinese troops.



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