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Olympics flame fires Tibetan protests

Meanwhile, Greece handed over the Olympic torch to the organisers of the Beijing Games in a tightly-guarded Athens ceremony.

world Updated: Mar 31, 2008 00:55 IST

Further unrest in Tibet’s capital appeared to have been sparked by attempts by police to carry out security checks, indicating the tension and volatility remaining in Lhasa.

It was unclear exactly what occurred in Lhasa on Saturday but a mobile text message to residents from police said security checks carried out earlier in the day had “frightened citizens” and caused panic in the city centre.

Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet and Radio Free Asia quoted witnesses as describing people “running in all directions and shouting”. It was not clear if the security check was in response to a protest, or if the check itself caused the panic.

“Please obey the law and please follow the rules, don't create rumours, don’t believe rumours, don’t spread rumours,” read the message, which was reprinted by the Free Tibet Campaign and International Campaign for Tibet.

“Severely battle any creation or any spreading of rumours that would upset or frighten people or cause social disorder or illegal criminal behaviour that could damage social stability” the message read.

Meanwhile, Greece handed over the Olympic torch to the organisers of the Beijing Games on Sunday in a tightly-guarded Athens ceremony, after police quickly arrested anti-Chinese protesters shouting “Save Tibet”.

About a dozen demonstrators who tried to unfurl a banner were taken into custody as well as three members of the Falungong movement, which is outlawed in China, who had tried to enter the stadium. Tight restrictions were also imposed on media coverage of the torch relay as it entered Athens' legendary Acropolis on Saturday. On Sunday, the final run through the city was cut short hours before the flame’s delivery to Chinese officials.

The fresh tensions come as China prepares to receive the Olympic flame in its capital Beijing on Monday.

Speaking in Laos on Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao repeated the government’s assertion that the Lhasa riot was “violent and criminal”.

“They have hurt the interests of even Tibetan people,” he told Hong Kong television reporters. “We hope governments everywhere and the media can approach and assess this matter objectively and justly. The Chinese government has the ability to solve this matter,” Wen said.

The protests also spread to ethnic Tibetan areas of China.

In Sichuan province’s Aba county, where police opened fire on protesters a week ago, 26 suspects were detained for their involvement, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Police seized guns, bullets, explosives and knives in Aba’s Kirti monastery, as well as Tibetan flags and banners advocating independence for Tibet, the report said.

The Tibet Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, based in India, said more than 100 monks from the Kirti monastery were detained and that police raided rooms.

In Kathmandu, a group of 200 Tibetan exiles and Buddhist monks tried to storm the Chinese Embassy visa office on Sunday but police beat them back with bamboo batons. At least 130 protesters were arrested.