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World Watching as China Deals With Tibet Conflict


Britain's prime minister says Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has told him he is willing to hold talks with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. This contrasts with Wen's public comments blaming the Dalai Lama for orchestrating the violence in Tibet. Leta Hong Fincher has more on the protests against Chinese rule in Tibet last week, which the government says have killed at least 16 people.

China's State Council released footage Tuesday of last week's violent unrest in Lhasa. VOA cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video because Chinese authorities have banned foreign journalists from Tibet.

The protests against Chinese rule began peacefully early last week and gradually turned violent.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired amateur tourist video Wednesday purporting to show Chinese armored vehicles driving through Lhasa streets last week.

Journalists and activist groups report Chinese troops and police have tightened security as protests spread to Chinese provinces neighboring Tibet. The Canadian broadcaster CTV on Tuesday showed what it said were ethnic Tibetan protesters in China's western Gansu province.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, of organizing violent protests to promote Tibetan independence.

"There is plenty of evidence proving that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai [Lama] clique," he said.

The Dalai Lama has denied the charges. He called Tuesday for an end to the violence and says he will quit as head of Tibet's government-in-exile if needed, "If things become out of control, then my only option is completely resign, resign."

Tibetan human rights groups say the protests in Lhasa reflect years of anger over Chinese rule. China has controlled Tibet since 1951 and strictly curtails Tibetan Buddhist practices.

In recent years Beijing has promoted economic development in the impoverished region and encouraged the migration of ethnic Han Chinese to Tibet.

In 2006, China unveiled the world's highest railway, which directly links Beijing with Lhasa.

Edward Friedman, professor of Chinese political science at the University of Wisconsin, says the rapid economic growth in Tibet has helped fuel resentment of the Chinese.

"With the expectations of growth has come a feeling that Tibetan people would be benefiting. And to see Han Chinese being the major beneficiaries and having a fear that you are going to just be overwhelmed by Han Chinese and your culture, everything that has given meaning to your life, is going to be lost in the next generation as your children essentially become Sinified [to become Chinese] creates great tensions within Tibet," Friedman said.

A top U.S. official says that the world is watching as China deals with protests in Tibet and other human rights issues leading to the Beijing Summer Olympics.

"The Olympics is an opportunity for China to put its best face forward and show progress to the world," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen, who spoke at a congressional advisory panel hearing Tuesday. "And we believe that progress is not only found on economic affairs but also in social affairs and human rights and rule of law and media freedom. And we believe that a truly successful Olympics by China will require them to show progress on these issues."

Christensen said the United States is urging China to reach out to the Dalai Lama and address the grievances of the Tibetan people.

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