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'Tibet activists plan suicide attacks'

world Updated: Apr 02, 2008 02:42 IST

PTI
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As international pressure mounted on it to open dialogue with the Dalai Lama, China on Tuesday claimed that Tibetan "suicide squads" were planning to carry out bloody attacks to disrupt Beijing Olympics, a charge refuted by Tibetan government in exile as "propaganda."

China's Ministry of Public Security claimed that it had information that Tibetans would organise suicide squads in a push for 'Tibetan independence.'

A ministry spokesman told reporters in Beijing that the Chinese government feared "violent attacks" in the run up to the Beijing Olympics commencing from August 8.

"To our knowledge the next plan of the Tibetan independence forces is to organise suicide squads to launch violent attacks," Wu said as the Olympic torch made its way from Beijing to Almaty, Kazakhstan, for the first leg of its world tour, including New Delhi.

Rights groups have said they will focus protests on the London leg on Sunday, Paris on Monday and San Francisco, the only stop in the United States on April 9. Last week, protesters defied tight security to disrupt the traditional torch-lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia.

However, Beijing's charge was quickly denied by the Tibetan government-in-exile which labeled the claims as "propaganda."

The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that he supported Beijing hosting the Olympics Games. The 72-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner has denied the China's charge of "masterminding" the recent violence in Tibet but has sought international investigation into the unrest and its underlying causes.

Despite mounting pressure on the Chinese leadership to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Beijing on Tuesday asserted that any attempt to put pressure on it by linking the Tibet issue with the Olympics would not succeed, saying the sporting event was not a "venue for discussion of political issues or a platform to give a political show."

"In the past Olympics also, we have seen some heads of states or governments have attended it and some have not. So, it is very normal. There is no need for some country to stir up or flatter themselves about it (boycott)", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing.

Western powers led by US President George W Bush have been sustaining pressure on China to exercise restraint on the Tibet issue and reopen dialogue with the Dalai Lama, with suggestions of boycott by some nations.

Commenting on a reported call by the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging Bush to boycott the opening ceremony of the Games, Jiang said the Olympics was a sports event of the people around the world.

"If you do not come, it is not to isolate China. When officials and heads of state and government come, they are taking part in a gathering of the Olympic family to show support and cheer athletes from their own country," she said.

"If some body wants to use the Olympics as a stage to flatter themselves, they will not succeed. If they do not participate, it is to leave the Olympic family. It will undermine the interests of themselves", she said.

Pelosi had recently invited the anger of China after she met the Dalai Lama in India and solidly backed the Tibetan movement while calling Beijings crackdown a "challenge to the conscience of the world."

The spokesperson also accused the Dalai Lama of trying to "shirk off" his responsibility for the Lhasa riots.

"If he really wants to have contact and discussion with the central government and be a member of the motherland, he should stop various kinds of violent crimes... And stop violent activities and attempts to undermine the Beijing Olympics and to split the motherland", Jiang said.

Meanwhile, Tibet and adjoining provinces, which witnessed the worst riots since 1989, remained shut out for foreign journalists though Beijing took a select group of scribes for an escorted tour of Tibet's capital, Lhasa.

The 3-day trip backfired when some daring monks staged an anti-China protest in front of the journalists and vented their deep resentment against Chinese communist rule of Tibet.

Tibetan demonstrations on March 10 in Lhasa to mark the 49th anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule of the Himalayan region escalated into massive violence on March 14.

The unrest swiftly spread to neighbouring provinces inhabited by Tibetans, and claimed at least 20 lives.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says 135-140 people were killed in the Chinese crackdown.