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Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

China blames Dalai Lama for riots

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao 18/3/08
Mr Wen says the protesters are trying to sabotage the Olympics

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding the recent days of demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet's capital, Lhasa.

Mr Wen said the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's claim of "cultural genocide" was "nothing but lies".

The Dalai Lama denied he was behind the unrest and said he would resign from the government-in-exile if it worsened.

China says 13 people were killed by rioters in Lhasa. Tibetan exiles say 99 have died in clashes with authorities.

The protests began on 10 March - the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule - and gradually escalated, culminating in a day of violence late last week.

If things are getting out of control, then the option is to completely resign
The Dalai Lama

Mr Wen's comments - his first since the violence broke out - came in response to a question by a Western journalist at a news conference following the close of parliament.

Mr Wen defended China's handling of the violence, accusing protesters of robbery, arson and violence. He said Tibetan exiles had instigated the violence.

"There is ample fact and plenty of evidence proving this incident was organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique," he said.

"This has all the more revealed the consistent claims by the Dalai clique that they pursue not independence, but peaceful dialogue, are nothing but lies."

The Dalai Lama, who in 1989 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his consistent opposition to the use of violence, has repeatedly called for dialogue with China.

Chinese riot police patrol Tongren in Qinghai, a province bordering Tibet

Speaking from Dharamsala in northern India, he said his message to Tibetans was to refrain from violence.

"Violence is against human nature," he said. "We should not develop anti-Chinese feelings. We must live together side by side."

He added: "If things are getting out of control, then the option is to completely resign [as political head]," he said. "This movement is beyond our control."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang has said the Dalai Lama should be put on trial for his role in the unrest.

The Dalai Lama responded by saying: "Investigate thoroughly... if you want to start investigating from here you are most welcome. Check our various offices."

He reaffirmed that he wanted autonomy for Tibet within China, but not outright independence, which he said was "out of the question".

Convoys

Mr Wen had also said the protesters "wanted to incite the sabotage of the Olympic Games in order to achieve their unspeakable goal". The Games begin on 8 August.

There have been no moves so far for an international boycott. European Union ministers have ruled out such a move, saying it would only punish athletes.

But Ma Ying-jeou, the front-runner in Taiwan's presidential election, to be held on Saturday, said he would "not rule out" a boycott if the crackdown worsened.

TIBET DIVIDE
The Dalai Lama (18 March 2008)
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

Large numbers of police are patrolling the streets of Lhasa.

A Chinese deadline for protesters to surrender passed at midnight on Monday (1600 GMT) and there is no immediate word on the military's actions.

However, the BBC has received reports from Lhasa of the Chinese authorities conducting house-to-house searches and arresting suspected Tibetan protesters as the deadline approached.

The BBC's Daniel Griffiths, who is close to the border with Tibet in western China, said he had seen long convoys of military vehicles heading across the mountains into Tibet.

There are unconfirmed reports of troops sealing off towns.

Demonstrations have spread to Tibetan communities in Gansu and Sichuan provinces.

A Chinese source with links to the security forces told the BBC that 600 monks had been flown overnight on military planes from Lhasa to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. The report could not be independently verified.

The source was told that the monks were transported because the authorities feared they would become a focus for protests if they stayed in Lhasa.

Police have also stopped BBC journalists from entering the village in which the Dalai Lama was born in north-eastern Tibet.

China says Tibet has always been part of its territory but Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before the 20th Century and many Tibetans remain loyal to the Dalai Lama, who fled in 1959.




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