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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 15:08 GMT
China admits Tibet monk protests
Tibetan Buddhist at a ceremony at Labrang Monastery, Gansu province, 13/03
Campaigners say protesters are "emboldened" by wide support
Chinese officials have acknowledged that Buddhist monks were protesting in the Tibetan city of Lhasa this week.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the authorities had "stabilised" the situation.

Unconfirmed reports earlier this week said as many as 600 monks had taken part in rallies, and that police used tear gas to disperse them.

Rights groups said the demonstrations were the biggest display of opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet since 1989.

US-based Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday that dozens of monks had been detained as the authorities sought to crack down on dissent.

However, little information emerged from Tibet and the authorities remained tight-lipped until Thursday, when Mr Qin confirmed that a series of rallies had taken place.

"In the past couple of days, a few monks in Lhasa have made some disturbances in an effort to cause unrest," news agency AFP quoted him as saying.

"Thanks to the efforts of the local government and the democratic administration of the temples, the situation in Lhasa has been stabilised."

Everest closure

Radio Free Asia reported that a number of monks were arrested on Monday after a march marking the 49th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

The radio station, which is funded by the US government, said hundreds of monks took to the streets the following day to demand the release of their fellow monks - and were dispersed by tear gas.

Tibet map

Campaigners based outside China say protesters in Lhasa are being spurred on by rallies in other Chinese provinces and in India.

Matt Whitticase from the UK-based Free Tibet Campaign said protesters in Lhasa had been "emboldened" by the support they were receiving from across the world.

"Tibetans inside Tibet are aware that Tibetans in India are marching towards the Tibet border," he said.

Tibetan exiles in India began a march to the border with China on Monday - one of several events protesting against the Beijing Olympics and campaigning for an independent Tibet.

But Indian police arrested more than 100 of the exiles, saying their march breached an agreement between Delhi and the Tibet's India-based government-in-exile, headed by the province's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

A surge in Tibetan activism could become a security headache for China in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, correspondents say.

This week the Chinese leadership closed the north face of Mount Everest until after the Olympic Flame ascends in May, for fear that activists might use it to stage photogenic Tibet-related protests.

China says Tibet has always been part of its territory, though Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before the twentieth century, and many Tibetans remain loyal to the Dalai Lama, who fled in 1959 and currently lives in exile in India.


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