China urged to show restraint over Tibet protesters
Reuters[Saturday, March 15, 2008 22:45]

SYDNEY, March 15 — International pressure mounted on Beijing on Saturday to show restraint towards demonstrators in Tibet, as protesters in Sydney removed the Chinese flag at China's consulate building and tried to raise a Tibetan flag.

The protests in Sydney came a day after China said 10 people were killed in rare unrest in the Tibetan city of Lhasa. Beijing on Saturday said it gave rioters until midnight on Monday to turn themselves in.

Australia, the United States and Europe are all urging the Chinese authorities to deal with the Lhasa situation peacefully, while Taiwan, which China claims as its own, predictably condemned moves against the protests.

Other Asian states have not commented.

Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith called for China to allow "peaceful expression of dissent".

The security breach at the consulate was captured by local television which showed about a half dozen protesters scaling a 4-metre fence, the Chinese flag being lowered and an unsuccessful bid to raise the multi-coloured Tibetan flag. Four people were arrested, police said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for "free and direct dialogue" between China and the Dalai Lama, her spokesman said.

"It is now more important than ever that demonstrators and security forces call for restraint and that the rights of individuals are respected," Ulrich Wilhelm said.

"The German government has always supported the Tibetans' claim to religious and cultural autonomy," he said, adding Germany did not support it becoming a separate state.

Beijing cancelled a number of high-level meetings with German officials after Ms. Merkel last year became the first German chancellor to meet with the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese government views as a separatist. China has also urged India to stop protests there by exiled Tibetans.

"We strongly condemn China's use of force to suppress Tibet and urge the international community to monitor the development in Tibet," Taiwan's foreign ministry said in a statement, but other Asian countries were slow to react.

The foreign ministry in Japan, whose relationship with its giant neighbour is occasionally strained, most recently over differences on how Chinese-made dumplings became contaminated with insecticide, sickening 10 in Japan, had not yet issued a statement, and officials were not available for comment.

Most national newspapers gave the story prominent front-page play, complete with pictures, and public broadcaster NHK showed some footage on its midday news.

Shuei Kobayashi, who heads the Japan Committee for Tibet – a private Tibet support group – criticized China's response.

"This is not a situation in which the world should permit this country to host the Olympics," he said.

South Korea's response was similar to Japan's, with front page coverage in several newspapers but no comment from the foreign ministry.

Elsewhere the Times of India criticized its government for jailing around 100 Tibetan protesters earlier this week.

"None of this (referring to the protests in Tibet) need concern New Delhi, which has taken the official position that Tibet is part of China," the paper said.

"But it doesn't have to kowtow to Beijing by cracking down harshly on peaceful Tibetan protest on Indian soil."