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XIAHE, China – Chinese paramilitary police with riot shields and batons abruptly took up posts Monday on the main street of this Tibetan town, disrupting the bustle of Buddhist pilgrims in a reminder of China’s determined control of the region.

With some Tibetans pushing harder against Chinese rule, the communist government is determined to pacify the area.

The show of force Monday was meant to deter unrest while a local court sentenced a group of Tibetans for taking part in large anti-government protests in March in Xiahe, a small town abutting a sprawling complex of golden-roofed temples.

Though the verdicts were not publicly announced, the trial also seemed timed to answer the complaints of the Dalai Lama and other exiled leaders meeting in India over the weekend that Tibetans’ patience with China’s domination was thinning.

Seven months after Tibetans across western China exploded in the largest uprising against Chinese rule in nearly 50 years, the authoritarian government is adjusting tactics. Police checkpoints and guard posts in place for months are suddenly dismantled, only to reappear without warning days later.

“We are in the grip of the Communist Party. Tibet is occupied. The Dalai Lama has fled to India. My heart is sad,” said a monk who has studied at Xiahe’s Labrang monastery for 15 years and declined to give his name for fear of government reprisals.

On a spare altar in his small room was a framed portrait of the Dalai Lama.

Monday’s police action in Xiahe came after several weeks in which riot squads had rarely been seen on the streets, residents said.

Helmeted police with truncheons and six-foot-long poles stood outside the courthouse and government buildings. At a checkpoint with sandbags chest high on a bridge, uniformed officers studied identification papers and stopped all but a few dozen vehicles from entering the one-street town.

On high-altitude grasslands 90 miles to the south, the 200-year-old Xicang monastery, site of a violent demonstration in March, was open again for visitors, but tense. Senior clerics finished leading Sunday midday teachings in the main hall and immediately shuffled to another meeting — a rollout of a new government-ordered study session.

About 90 monks sat on the cold stone courtyard. In front of them hung a red banner with white Tibetan and Chinese writing: “Work Meeting for the Second Phase of Xicang Monastery’s Rule of Law Propaganda Education Campaign.”

Such mandatory campaigns — which stress that religion must never veer into political action — have been used repeatedly to keep the clergy in line.

Beijing maintains the Dalai Lama is promoting secession, not reconciliation, and that the government is bringing economic development to an impoverished area, while preserving Tibet’s culture and religion.

But the communist leadership’s heavy hand over Tibet and disregard for the Dalai Lama is adding to the gloom of Tibetans in China and in exile.

Though they number only 5 million, Tibetans are spread across a quarter of China and remain loyal to the Dalai Lama, a popular international figure who gives their cause a global impact.

After the week long meeting called to discuss a so-far failed policy of rapprochement with China after 50 years in exile, the Dalai Lama and other exiled leaders said they would maintain their push for genuine autonomy with China.

But the Dalai Lama struck a pessimistic note, calling the next 20 years a period of “great danger” for Tibet — a seeming reference to Tibetans’ ability to persevere and, at 73, his ability to live on and remain a rallying point.

“Tibet’s traditions and culture are weakening rapidly. Can the exiles survive for another 20 years if their policies fail and if the Chinese government continues to resist a compromise?” asked Wang Lixiong, a Chinese writer and convert to Tibetan Buddhism who lives in Beijing.

“The current Chinese government is not going to solve the Tibet problem. Under one-party rule, power is crucial, and they are the power-holders.”

The region around Xiahe — pronounced SHAH-HUH — stands as a gateway between the more fertile plains where Han Chinese and Hui Chinese Muslims farm, and the mountains and upland plateaus that are home to Tibetans. Off and on for centuries it straddled a fuzzy line of control.

In the days since the Dalai Lama called the extraordinary meeting on Tibet’s future, Beijing has gone out of its way to display its commanding position in the tug-of-war. A senior Chinese official rejected a proposal this month to incorporate Xiahe and other Tibetan lands in one autonomous Tibet region governed by Lhasa but still part of China.

As the talks in India went on, China started a series of trials of Tibetans who took part in the March rebellion. In Luqu, a town of 7,000 where monks from Xicang tossed stones at local government offices, the court sentenced four people last week, a court officer said, refusing to disclose the verdicts.

The police action in Xiahe quieted the town as cars were cleared from the streets and people hurried past armed guards. Residents said they did not know what was happening.

A court officer confirmed those on trial participated in the March demonstrations, in which hundreds of monks marched through town, but declined to specify the number of defendants or their sentences.

Foreign visitors have been barred from the region for much of the past seven months, as authorities scoured monasteries and communities for uprising participants, detaining undisclosed numbers. A month ago the prohibition was lifted in Xiahe even as many other Tibetan areas remain closed.

Across the Xiahe region, Tibetans displayed robust devotion to the Dalai Lama and a strong resentment of the security China has imposed.

In Hezuo, a city set in the folds of a valley, Tibetans congregated around the towering 14-story fortress-like temple to a Tibetan saint. Many worshippers were under 50, having lived their entire lives under Communist Party rule.

At a prayer hall, two portraits of the Dalai Lama — always discouraged and sometimes outright banned by the government — were tacked to a shrine cluttered with reliquaries, paintings and photos of other revered teachers.

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Tibetan exiles on Sunday celebrated the 73rd birthday of their revered leader His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, but with no customary song and dance performances.

Hundreds of Tibetans and visiting tourists packed the Tsuglag-khang (Main Tibetan Temple) courtyard to join the official function, attended by top officials of the Tibetan government-in-Exile, including Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Chairman of the Tibetan Parliament Mr Karma Choephel and other senior officials of the Central Tibetan Administration.

The Dalai Lama’s birthday celebration, which is otherwise a joyous moment for Tibetans, was kept moderate this year due to sad and worsening situation inside Tibet since the March unrest. Tibetan people here honoured their leader’s birthday by offering prayers and planting trees for his long life and continued wellbeing.

Some 200 people from the Trans Himalayan region of India bordering Tibet, including Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Uttranchal, Utrakhand, Lahaul Spiti, Kinour, Kullu, Manali, and Ladhak, also joined the celebration this morning. The members were led by prominent social and political leaders of the communities. According to a press statement by the Trans Himalayan Parliamentary forum, the members on Saturday had a private audience with the Dalai Lama to wish him “long life and to express solidarity with Holiness’ peaceful struggle for the Tibetan cause”. They also organized a candle light peace march for Tibet later in the evening to convey their continued support for the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom.

TAIPEI, Taiwan: Tibetan and Taiwanese activists carried a “freedom torch” to the summit of Taiwan’s tallest mountain Sunday as part of a five-month, 50-city relay calling for greater self-rule for China-controlled Tibet, sponsors said.

The 21-member team took the torch to the peak of 13,035-foot (3,950-meter) Mount Yu and planted a Tibetan flag there, they said.

“From the summit of Mount Yu, they looked homeward at the Himalayas, praying for the early termination of their exile so they could return home,” said the Taiwan for Tibet Association, a local group backing the Tibetans.

Several of the torch carriers fled their Himalayan homeland and live in exile in other countries.

The Tibetan torch relay, which began in Greece in March, was designed to contrast with the torch relay for the Olympic Games, which open in Beijing on Aug. 8.

It is also meant to highlight Tibetans’ will to strengthen their autonomy and denounce Beijing for its crackdown on demonstrations in Tibet in March, said Thupten Chophed, an official of the Taiwan-Tibet Interchange Association.

Sunday is the 73rd birthday of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, making the Taiwan leg of the relay more significant, he said.

The relay was launched in Greece on March 10 and is scheduled to finish Aug. 7 at Dharmsala, India, base of the Dalai Lama’s government in exile.

China has governed Tibet since Communist troops marched into the Himalayan region in the 1950s. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India during a failed uprising in 1959, has said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.

Taiwan has criticized Beijing for what it says was China’s heavy-handed response to Tibetan demonstrations in March. China claims the self-ruled island of Taiwan is part of its territory, although the sides split in 1949 during a civil war.

Subject: FreeTibet2008.org: SFT Launches New Olympics Website/Video

With the start of the Beijing Olympics only 49 days away, SFT HQ is stepping up our Olympic campaign efforts. To ensure that you are kept up to date with news, analysis, and ways to participate in creative, strategic and effective actions for Tibet leading up to and during the Games, we are excited to launch SFT’s Olympics website: http://www.FreeTibet2008.org.

Visit http://www.FreeTibet2008.org now and watch our new SFT Olympics Campaign video, a moving account of what is at stake inside Tibet and the power we have – as Tibetans, supporters, and people of conscience – to make history for Tibet at this crucial time.

We are about to enter the most critical stage in our organization’s history, and indeed in the history of the Tibet movement, and we need your help.

After you watch SFT’s new Olympics Campaign video, download it and share it with your friends and family. Post it on your Facebook page, send it to all your email contacts and encourage everyone you know to donate to SFT in this Olympic year.

With your help, we will raise the necessary funds to seize this once-in-a-lifetime Olympic opportunity to make history for Tibet.

Make a donation right now: http://www.FreeTibet2008.org/donate

As the Chinese government prepares to launch its single-largest propaganda exercise ever, all of us at SFT are working with ever-greater intensity to keep the world’s attention focused on the Tibetan people’s cries for freedom. Tibetans continue to speak out despite the terrible risks, and need you in this critical time.

Please support our efforts by donating to SFT’s Olympics action fund now.

This is the most urgent time to support SFT as we effectively expend tremendous physical and financial resources toward realizing our goal – and the goal of the Tibetan people – human rights and freedom for Tibet.

This truly is the time. With your help, Tibet will be free.

Yours,
Lhadon Tethong

P.S. Please visit http://www.FreeTibet2008.org today. We’ve designed it as a one-stop resource for everything related to SFT’s Olympics campaign, featuring a media center, a photo and video gallery, resources and tools to help you get involved and take action, and streamlined information and analysis from SFT’s website and leading blogs.

AP [Sunday, April 27, 2008 16:21]
SEOUL, South Korea, April 27 – A North Korean defector tried to set himself on fire to halt the Olympic torch relay through Seoul, while thousands of police guarded the flame Sunday from protesters blasting China’s treatment of North Korean refugees.

Hundreds of China supporters waving the Chinese flag greeted the torch, throwing rocks at anti-Beijing demonstrators. Police ran alongside the flame and rode horses and bicycles on the relay across the city, which hosted the 1988 Olympics.

The torch relay has become a lightning rod for anti-China demonstrations. At other stops, protesters have focused their ire on Beijing’s recent crackdown on anti-government riots in Tibet. But in South Korea, China’s treatment of North Korean defectors has taken center stage.

One of two North Korean defectors Son Jong Hoon, left, pours gasoline as police officers try to detain them during the Beijing Olympic torch run in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 27, 2008. Son tried to set himself on fire to halt the Olympic torch relay Sunday in Seoul, where thousands of police guarded the flame from protesters blasting China’s treatment of North Korean refugees.
Thousands of North Koreans, fleeing lives of hardship in a country that restricts all civil liberties, have escaped across the loosely controlled Chinese border, rather than attempt the heavily fortified frontier with the South. Many live in hiding in China, where if caught, they are deported back home to face imprisonment in life-threatening conditions.

The man who tried to immolate himself, 45-year-old Son Jong Hoon, had led an unsuccessful public campaign to save his brother from execution in the North, where he was accused of spying after the two met secretly in China. About an hour into the relay, Son poured gasoline on himself and tried to light himself on fire, but police stopped him.

At the start of the relay, a protester rushed toward the Olympic flame and tried to unfurl a banner calling for China to respect the rights of North Korean refugees. Dozens of police surrounding the torch quickly whisked him away. As it approached the city center, another North Korean defector also tried to impede the run and was arrested
There were no further attempts to stop the torch on its 4 1/2-hour trip through Seoul to City Hall, where it was met by some 5,000 supporters.

Some 8,000 police were deployed across the South Korean capital to guard the torch on its 15-mile run from Olympic Park.

The first runner, the South’s Korean Olympic Committee head Kim Jung-kil, jogged out of the park surrounded by police on horseback, on bicycles, in buses and on foot.

Thousands of Chinese also paced the torch. They carried a large red Chinese flag, chanting “Go China, go Olympics!”


Scuffles broke out near the park between a group of 500 Chinese supporters and about 50 demonstrators. The Chinese side threw stones and water bottles at the others as some 2,500 police tried to keep the two groups apart.

A rock hit a journalist in the head, but there were apparently no other injuries.

“The Olympics are not a political issue,” said Sun Cheng, 22, a Chinese student studying the Korean language in Seoul. “I can’t understand why the Korean activist groups are protesting human rights or other diplomatic issues.”

Seoul is one of the last stops on the torch’s international tour, which ends when the flame arrives in Hong Kong on Wednesday. On Sunday, three human rights activists who planned to protest the relay in Hong Kong were barred from entering the Chinese-ruled territory, local media and the one of the activists said.

The torch heads next to North Korea for its first-ever run in the communist country on Monday. Disruptions were not expected in the North, an authoritarian state that tolerates no dissent.

Reuters:

Nagano, Japan, April 26 – Crowds of Chinese students waving red flags and signs such as “One World, One Dream, One China” scuffled with pro-Tibet protesters in the latest leg of the Olympic torch relay in Japan on Saturday.

Commenting on the turmoil that has bedevilled the global relay, International Olympics Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge urged the West to stop hectoring China over human rights.

“You don’t obtain anything in China with a loud voice,” Rogge told Saturday’s Financial Times. “That is the big mistake of people in the West wanting to add their views”.

“To keep face [in Asia] is of paramount importance. All the Chinese specialists will tell you that only one thing works — respectful, quiet but firm discussion,” Rogge added.

The global torch relay ahead of the Beijing Games in August has prompted protests against China’s human rights record, including in Tibet, as well as patriotic rallies by Chinese who criticise the West for vilifying Beijing.

As rain fell in Nagano, chants of “Go China” mixed with “Free Tibet” from the rival groups, who at times clashed despite the tight security in the central city, host to the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Four Chinese supporters were injured and three men were arrested, fire officials and police said, including one man who was wrestled to the ground after running into the relay path holding a Tibetan flag and shouting “Free Tibet”.

More than 3 000 police were mobilised for the relay, which comes a day after Chinese state media said Beijing would hold talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Buddhist leader of Tibet, whom it blames for recent unrest.

Japan was keen to avoid the chaotic scenes that marred some of the relay venues elsewhere ahead of next month’s visit by President Hu Jintao, the first to Japan by a Chinese president in a decade.

“I ran hoping for the Beijing Olympics to be successful and peaceful,” said Japanese Olympic gold medallist marathon runner Mizuki Noguchi, after lighting the flame on the podium at the end of the relay.

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In one of the strongest displays of Chinese nationalism seen in Melbourne, about 3000 pro-Chinese Olympic torch relay supporters tonight boarded more than 50 buses destined for Canberra and the Australian leg of the troubled Beijing Olympic torch relay.

The crowd of mostly Chinese students, carrying flags and wearing pro-China T-shirts, boarded buses outside the Telstra Dome for the 10-hour drive to Canberra to witness tomorrow’s torch relay through the capital.

Despite suggestions the Chinese Embassy in Melbourne had organised the convoy, there was little sense of impending trouble between the crowd and any pro-Tibet demonstrators who might try a repeat of the ugly torch relay scenes in London and Paris.

“We are going there to celebrate the torch,”  post-graduate student Bin Hua told The Age.

Former deputy lord mayor Wellington Lee, a fourth generation Chinese, was among a sprinkling of older Chinese who joined the convoy.

He said he joined the group to show solidarity.

“The Press hasn’t been kind to China. More than that, it has been pretty anti-China,” he said.

Organisers insisted there was no Chinese Embassy involvement in the protest, but Deakin University academic Damien Kingsbury told The Age it was most likely.

“It’s almost impossible that the Chinese Embassy is not involved in some way,” he said.

Ireland’s Environment Minister John Gormley stands over comments on Tibet he made at his party conference which provoked the Chinese ambassador to Ireland to walk out of the conference, reports said Monday.

On Saturday Green Party leader Gormley in his keynote speech to his party’s annual convention accused China of abusing human rights in Tibet and called on Beijing to hold talks with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader.

The comments caused the ambassador to Ireland, Liu Biwei, to walk out of the conference. Speaking through an interpreter, the ambassador told reporters that Gormley’s words were “not acceptable and I lodge my strong protests. So I must leave to show my strong protests.”

Gormley told the Irish Independent on Monday that he would not be apologising for the remarks.

Ireland’s Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern described the incident as “overblown” and said he didn’t think it would damage trade between Ireland and China, which is valued at 5.5 billion euros (8.7 billion dollars) per year.

Ahern said the problem may have been that Gormley referred to Tibet as a “country,” in what the foreign minister said was a “slip of the tongue.” He said Gormley’s call for dialogue reflects Irish government policy.

Reading the news this morning I was not surprised to hear little about the Olympic torch and its passage through Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. However, what DID strike me was some of the information found while reading an article from the AFP:

The five-kilometre-relay, which took place amid heavy downpour in this Indian Ocean city, ended at the Chinese-built National Stadium without any incident or breach of security.

Interesting, isn’t it? That China has such an influence in the city and the torch passes without so much as a single protest?!

Not only that, but:

Tanzania, long a socialist country with close ties to the eastern Communist bloc, enjoys excellent relations with China since diplomatic ties were established in 1964.

The Asian giant, which has an aggressive economic policy on the mineral-rich continent, is a major investor in the east African nation’s fledgling economy.

Bilateral trade stood at 794 million dollars (500 million euros) in 2007, close to a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

President Jakaya Kikwete is currently on a four-day state visit to China and the flame was met at the airport by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda late Saturday. It will then be flown Oman less than 24 hours later.

Interesting, eh?

China has arrested nine Tibetan Buddhist monks who have been accused of a bomb attack, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Chinese officials said the monks’ homemade bomb exploded in a government building in eastern Tibet on 23 March.

Xinhua news agency did not explain why the alleged bomb incident was not reported at the time.

News of the arrests came as Beijing continued to attack overseas critics of its crackdown in the Himalayan region.

Xinhua said the monks confessed to planting the explosive in Gyanbe township.

Beijing’s claims that the recent Tibetan protests were part of a violent campaign by the Dalai Lama, the region’s exiled spiritual leader, to disrupt Chinese rule in Tibet and sabotage the Beijing Olympics in August.

Bombing unreported

The alleged bombing is the first to be reported in Tibet since the anti-China protests began 10 March in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

After China’s crackdown, demonstrations by pro-Tibet activists – and other groups critical of Beijing’s human rights record – have haunted the Olympic torch relay in London, Paris and San Francisco this month, stirring anger in China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao took a hard line Saturday, saying the problems in Tibet were a purely internal affair directly threatening Chinese sovereignty.