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Violence victims to get compensation

China has offered to pay compensation to the families of the civilians who have died in the Tibetan violence.

world Updated: Mar 29, 2008 19:00 IST

China offered to pay compensation to the families of the civilians it says died in violence in the Tibetan capital this month as Beijing kept up an intense propaganda campaign in the wake of the unrest.

Anyone injured in the chaos that engulfed in Lhasa after days of Buddhist monk-led demonstrations was entitled to free medical care, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported late on Friday.

Unrest in the Chinese-controlled Himalayan region and other Tibetan-populated parts of western China, and China's response, have become a focus of international concern just months ahead of the summer Olympics.

Beijing has hoped the games, which start in August, would be a "coming out" party and a chance to showcase progress in the world's fourth biggest economy, but the Olympics have become a lightning rod for criticism.

By the government's count, 18 civilians died during the March 14 anti-Chinese violence in Lhasa, during which demonstrators hurled rocks at police and burned and looted stores and homes.

Their families would each receive 200,000 yuan ($28,530), Xinhua said, quoting a notice from Tibet's regional government.

"Measures are to be taken to help people repair their homes and shops damaged in the unrest or to build new ones," Xinhua quoted the notice as saying. One police officer also died, state media say, but Xinhua did not mention compensation arrangements.

The Tibet government-in-exile, established when the Dalai Lama fled to India after an abortive uprising in 1959, has estimated that there have been 140 deaths in the violence.

Since the unrest, China has been on a propaganda offensive, attacking foreign news organisations for biased reporting, quoting Buddhist clergy condemning the riots, praising the authorities for exercising restraint and highlighting the material gains the ruling Communist Party has brought to Tibet.

It has also pinned the blame for the unrest exclusively on the "Dalai clique," the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet and his supporters, who it says want Tibet independence.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who says he only wants greater autonomy for Tibet within China, said on Friday China's media were using "deceit and distortion" in coverage of the protests in Tibet, adding that it could cause racial tension and lead to unpredictable long-term consequences.

Foreign reporters have been blocked from travelling independently to Tibet and Tibetan-populated parts of the neighbouring provinces of Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai, some of which have also seen protests and unrest.

Earlier this week, the government took select foreign media to Lhasa for a stage-managed three-day tour meant to highlight the wreckage, showcase the victims and give the impression that the city was returning to normal.

But the plan backfired when about 30 monks at a central temple crashed an official news briefing to complain about lack of religious freedom and voice support for the Dalai Lama.

A Chinese official said the monks would not be punished, but Xinhua ran an editorial that slammed the youthful monks for being ignorant about life in Tibet before the Chinese army "liberated" the region in 1950.