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China-Tibet Propaganda Opera Staged During Olympics

A Chinese theater has staged a propaganda opera on China-Tibet history to coincide with the Olympics. The Beijing games have been dogged by protests against China's heavy-handed rule over Tibet. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

Chinese troops invaded Tibet in 1950 but China's claims on the Himalayan Kingdom go back centuries.

One historical reference is the 7th century marriage of Chinese princess Wen Cheng to the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo.

A Peking Opera theatre in Beijing has chosen the last days of the Beijing Olympics to stage an opera depicting China's version of the marriage.

The show portrays China as a selfless power bringing civilization to the area that would become Tibet. Tibetan and Chinese actors rejoice what the opera calls a "cementing of relations" by singing and dancing.

Gao Mukun, the director of the opera, says after watching the show you will understand how artists of the two minorities treasure this hard-won harmony. He says they are brothers of a family and that no one can separate them.

The opera is trying to spread a message of ethnic unity at a time when Beijing is still recovering from Tibetan anti-China protests in March that turned violent.

China's harsh crackdown led to a series of international protests against Beijing's hosting the Olympics.

The organization Students for a Free Tibet says, in the last three weeks, China has detained and deported 49 activists for participating in pro-Tibet demonstrations.

Ginger Cassady is a volunteer with the group and spoke Friday to reporters in Beijing.

"They said, you know, by getting this bid, getting the Olympic bid, that they were going to clean up their human rights record," she said. "But, what we've seen is actually its gotten a lot worse. That's something that we're going to continue to put the spotlight on."

Chinese police have roughed up and detained foreign media trying to cover the pro-Tibet protests, despite promises of non-interference in reporting during the Olympics. Photographers have also been forced to erase their photos.

Beijing's Olympic spokesman Wang Wei lashed out at reporters Friday for raising criticisms of China on Tibet and other issues.

"There's so many criticism in this room. It just reflects how biased some of the media are about China," he said. "And how little they understand China."

China designated three parks for approved protests during the Olympics and officials say they received 77 applications. None were approved.