Chinese authorities say they believe Tibetan forces agitating for independence are planning to launch violent suicide attacks. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
China's Public Security Ministry gave reporters an update on the official investigation into riots in Lhasa in mid-March. The Chinese government says 18 innocent people and one policeman died. Tibetans say the numbers are much higher, and include Tibetans killed by Chinese security forces.
Ministry spokesman Wu Heping said the Chinese government believes the Lhasa unrest and ensuing protests in Tibetan areas in western China are the work of Tibet independence activists. As with all Chinese officials, he squarely blamed Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama for orchestrating anti-Chinese violence - both recent and in the future.
Wu says the next plan of Tibet independence forces is to organize suicide squads to launch violent attacks. He gave no details.
The Chinese official said authorities have found more than 170 guns, 13,000 bullets and more than 3,500 kilograms of explosives in monk dormitory rooms at monasteries in Tibet.
He said Chinese authorities have arrested 37 people in Lhasa in connection with the case. Those captured include a key member of what the Chinese government refers to as the Dalai clique, made up of the Dalai Lama and his supporters.
Wu says the suspect has admitted his connection to the Dalai clique and to crimes of engaging in separatist activities at the Dalai Lama's instigation.
Wu gave no details about the suspect. But he said the suspect's involvement with the so-called Dalai clique began in November 2006, and involved establishing an underground network of activists within Tibet.
From Dharmsala, the prime minister of Tibet's government in exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, denied Chinese claims that Tibetans plan to launch suicide attacks.
Instead, he countered that the Tibetan exile community is concerned the Chinese may disguise themselves as Tibetans and plan attacks to discredit Tibetan activists.