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India joins calls for Tibet dialogue, more protests
Reuters[Sunday, March 16, 2008 18:45]
By Alistair Scrutton

NEW DELHI - India joined a chorus of calls for dialogue on Sunday after pro-independence protests in Tibet spilled over into street violence, while Japan urged Beijing to consider the implications on the Olympic Games.

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said that the international community had the "moral responsibility" to remind China to be a good host for the Olympic Games, but added that China deserved to host the Games in August.

China has declared a "people's war" of security and propaganda against support for the Dalai Lama underlining that it will not heed calls from around the globe for a lenient response to the riots.

Tibet's capital Lhasa was locked down on Sunday, two days after at least 10 people were killed in violent street protests. The contested region's government-in-exile said had killed 80 people.

The convulsion of Tibetan anger at the Chinese presence in the region came after days of peaceful protests by monks and was a sharp blow to Beijing's preparations for the Olympic Games in August, when China wants to showcase prosperity and unity.

Calling for calm, Japan's Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said: "I ask that the Chinese government give thorough consideration (to this) so that the Olympics will not be affected."

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said in an editorial that "China's tough response with power is against the Olympics spirit to promote world peace".

A spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs was quoted as saying in the Hindustan Times that reports of the "unsettled situation and violence in Lhasa, and by the deaths of innocent people" were distressing.

"We hope that all those involved will work to improve the situation and remove the causes of such trouble in Tibet, which is an autonomous region of China, through dialogue and non-violent means," Navtej Sarna said.

Indian police this week arrested Tibetan protesters trying to march to the Chinese border.

New Delhi is treading a delicate balance with its giant neighbor with whom it is trying to expand diplomatic and trade ties after decades of rivalry that included a brief war in 1962.

A major irritant is that India plays host to the Dalai Lama in the Indian city of Dharamsala, where the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile is based and scene of daily protests in the past week.

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Protest in Dharamsala (Photo by Tenzin Dasel/Phayul.com)
Protest in Dharamsala (Photo by Tenzin Dasel/Phayul.com)
In Dharamsala's main Buddhist temple on Sunday, about 1,500 people gathered, including many monks, to listen to speeches from exiled Tibetan leaders.

Chinese flags were laid out on the main road to the temple, forcing cars and lorries to drive over them. They were quickly covered in muddy footprints and tire tracks.

"We are showing solidarity with people inside Tibet. We are the last hope for the people inside," said Sonam Dorjee, a protester leading a hunger strike near the Dalai Lama's house.

There have been daily pro-Tibet protests around the world since last Monday, the 49th anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule.

A day after protesters scaled a wall at the Chinese consulate in Sydney, demonstrators on Sunday threw eggs and hit a vehicle with flagpoles as it drove into the mission compound in Melbourne, according to Australia's Associated Press.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged China's government to show restraint in Tibet and called for dialogue, echoing similar pleas from Europe and Australia.

"We urge China to respect the fundamental and universally recognized right of all of its citizens to peacefully express their political and religious views, and we call on China to release monks and others who have been detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views," Rice added.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in Dharamsala; James Regan in Sydney; Rhee So-eui in Seoul; Eric Burroughs in Tokyo; Washington bureau; Writing by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Jerry Norton and Sami Aboudi)
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