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Reporters stopped from seeing sensitive Tibetan temple
AFP[Sunday, June 22, 2008 17:07]

LHASA — Chinese officials on Sunday abruptly cancelled a planned visit by foreign media to a temple in the Tibetan capital that was at the heart of deadly anti-Chinese violence in March.

Foreign reporters who were allowed into the tense city of Lhasa to cover Saturday's tightly controlled Olympic torch relay were to have visited the Jokhang temple on Sunday in a government-organised tour.

However, Jokhang was abruptly left off the itinerary without explanation.

Monks from Jokhang have been reported by Tibet rights groups to have been at the centre of protests in early March that escalated into anti-Chinese riots.

The violence spread across the Tibetan plateau and provoked a massive Chinese security clampdown.

On March 27, Jokhang monks interrupted a similar tightly-controlled foreign media tour, calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and denouncing China.

The foreign reporters on Sunday were instead taken to the Sera monastery, where police could be seen keeping a watchful eye on its monks.

A Tibetan Buddhist lama, or holy man, at the monastery was asked by foreign reporters if he wished the exiled Dalai Lama to return.

"I have nothing to say because I am just a small lama. Those decisions are up to the government," he said.

Chinese authorities have closed Tibet to foreign tourists and reporters since the crackdown.

Tight security was thrown over the city on Saturday for the relay. But the city appeared to be back to normal Sunday, with no obvious security presence.

Later, reporters were taken to the famed Potala Palace, former home and seat of power for the Dalai Lama.

The palace was closed to tourists for the visit and reporters were not allowed to wander away from the group.
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