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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 10:59 GMT
China builds Tibet 'liberation' statue
The momument covered in scaffolding [Copyright TIN]
The monument was expected to cost $1.7m [TIN]
China has nearly finished building a huge monument in front of Tibet's Potala Palace, traditionally the winter home of the Dalai Lama, a human rights group has reported.

The London-based Tibet Information Network (TIN) has released a photograph of the statue, which China has said will commemorate the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet by Chinese troops in 1951.

The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959
But TIN spokeswoman Kate Saunders says the statue's construction in such a sensitive spot shows it is designed to send a political message to Tibetans about Chinese rule over the region.

When the plans to build the 37-metre (123-foot) sculpture were first revealed last July, the Tibetan government-in-exile said the monument would serve as a daily reminder of the humiliation of the Tibetan people.

Tibetan groups in exile have said that thousands of people were killed when Chinese troops entered Tibet, and many others suffered human rights abuses during subsequent Chinese rule.

China seized control of Tibet in 1950 and tried to legitimise its rule in 1951 with an agreement which the exiled Tibetan Government does not accept.

'Abstract' art

The monument stands in Potala Square in front of the large, white-walled palace building, which used to be the Tibetan Government's treasury as well as a private monastery for the Dalai Lama.

Beijing refuses to recognise the Dalai Lama, who fled to India following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Reports in the state-run Chinese press last year said the statue would cost $1.7m. The photo shows a slim structure, apparently made of concrete.

It is intended to be "an abstract representation of Mount Everest", TIN said in a statement.

Two "exhibition halls" are also to be constructed beside the monument in Potala Square, TIN reported notices in Chinese at the site as saying.

See also:

05 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Panchen Lama visits Shanghai
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Dalai Lama: Spiritual leader in exile
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
US backs Dalai Lama
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Tibet: Flashback to the Chinese 'deal'
09 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China renews attack on Dalai Lama
30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Dalai Lama braves Chinese protests
11 Mar 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Tibetans keep their faith
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Tibet anniversary: Contrasting views
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