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Fresh protests in Lhasa during diplomats visit

The reports of unrest came as a group of diplomats from the US, Japan & EU returned to Beijing after a two-day visit.

world Updated: Mar 30, 2008 11:19 IST
Lindsay Beck

Fresh protests broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa as foreign diplomats wrapped up a tightly controlled visit organised by Beijing, a radio broadcaster and Tibetan activists reported.

A demonstration began on Saturday afternoon at the Ramoche monastery and grew to involve "many people," said Kate Saunders of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet. Citing unnamed witnesses in the city, she said the situation calmed down after a few hours.

People also protested at the Jokhang Temple, a major Buddhist site, the government-in-exile of the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, said on its Web site. The India-based government gave no other details.

Several hundred people took part in the protests, the US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported.

Ramoche was the original site of monk-led demonstrations that began peacefully on March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, but erupted in violence days later. The Chinese government says 22 people died, while Tibetans abroad put the toll at 140.

The unrest was a public relations disaster for communist leaders, who want to use the upcoming Beijing Olympics to showcase China as a prosperous, stable society.

The reports of new protests came as a 15-member group of diplomats from the United States, Japan and Europe returned to Beijing after a two-day visit to Lhasa.

The descriptions of new protests could not be independently confirmed and China issued no immediate response. An American Embassy spokeswoman said she had no information on any protests. A Japanese diplomat, Mitsuhiro Wada, said, "No," when asked at the Beijing airport whether he saw any protests. Beijing is trying to enforce calm in Tibet and buttress its claim that the most violent anti-Chinese protests since 1989 were incited by forces linked to the Dalai Lama.

During their Lhasa tour, diplomats met people selected by Chinese authorities, who accompanied them at all times, the American Embassy said in a brief statement.

"The delegation was not permitted to move about independently in Lhasa, and was unable to hold unsupervised conversations with local residents," the statement said. It gave no other details but repeated Washington's appeal to China to show restraint. The British Embassy and the European Union mission in Beijing had no immediate comment.