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'China sentences 76 over Tibet riots'

world Updated: Feb 11, 2009 12:35 IST

Chinese authorities have handed down court sentences to 76 people over anti-Chinese riots last year in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

The information was announced by a top Tibetan official during a Tuesday news conference in Lhasa, Xinhua said, and marked an increase from a previous total of 55 reported by the agency.

The report, which quoted Baema Cewang, vice chairman of the standing committee of region's rubber-stamp legislature, gave no other details on the sentences.

Anti-China unrest erupted in Lhasa on March 14 and spread to Tibetan-populated regions around the country.

Tibet's government-in-exile said more than 200 Tibetans were killed and about 1,000 hurt in a subsequent Chinese crackdown, figures disputed by Beijing.

Tibetan rights groups have said thousands may have been arrested.

China has reported killing one Tibetan "insurgent" and says "rioters" were responsible for 21 deaths.

The sentencing figures were released as China conducted a rare and tightly controlled tour of the region for foreign media ahead of the anniversary of last year's violence.

However, the tour has excluded several major international news organisations, including AFP.

Xinhua has previously reported that up to 30 people had been convicted of arson, robbery, disrupting public order and attacking government offices, among other crimes.

Their sentences ranged from three years to life, it said.

Chinese troops entered the devoutly Buddhist region in 1950 to "liberate" it from feudal rule, according to Beijing, but Chinese control remains widely unpopular.