Report: Protests at Tibet monasteries
AP[Saturday, March 29, 2008 22:07]
By SCOTT McDONALD Associated Press Writer

BEIJING — New protests broke out Saturday at two monasteries in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, activists and the region's government-in-exile said, as China tried to blunt criticism of its crackdown.

One protest was at Lhasa's Ramoche monastery, where the March 14 demonstrations that led the crackdown began, said Kate Saunders of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.

Citing witnesses in the city, Saunders said there were "some reports of fighting," but she had no other information.

People also protested at the Jokhang Temple, a major Buddhist site in Lhasa, the government-in-exile of the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, said on its Web site. The India-based government gave no other details.

A state news agency said Saturday that Beijing will compensate victims of anti-government protests in Tibet.

Families of 18 civilians killed will each receive $28,500, the Xinhua News Agency said, citing an announcement by the Beijing-installed Tibet regional government. It said people injured will receive free medical care and owners of damaged homes and shops will get help rebuilding.

The communist government wants to enforce calm quickly following the riots, which drew attention to its human rights record as it prepares for this summer's Beijing Olympics.

About two dozen diplomats from countries including the United States, Britain and Japan were in Tibet on Saturday on a government-organized trip. The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to a request for details of their agenda.

The visit comes after a similar one by foreign journalists to Tibet's regional capital, Lhasa, backfired when about 30 crying monks burst into a briefing room shouting there was no religious freedom in Tibet.

Xinhua gave no indication Saturday whether there would be compensation for four other deaths — one police officer and three people who the government says were fleeing arrest.

The government says 382 civilians and 241 police officers also were hurt. The protests, led by monks, began peacefully March 10, on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Tibet had been effectively independent for decades before Chinese communist troops entered in 1950.

Beijing blames the unrest on supporters of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in exile in India.

On Saturday the Dalai Lama accused Beijing of "demographic aggression" — encouraging settlers from China's ethnic Han majority to move to the sparsely Tibetan populated region.

He said the number of settlers in Tibet was expected to increase by more than 1 million following the Olympics, but did not say where he obtained such information.

"There is evidence the Chinese people in Tibet are increasing month by month," the Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters in New Delhi.

Lhasa has 100,000 Tibetans and twice as many outsiders, the majority of them from the Han majority, the Dalai Lama said.

In Hong Kong, John Kamm, a veteran activist who met recently with Chinese officials, said the officials indicated that Beijing would not back down on Tibet despite any possible complications over the Olympics.

"I doubt frankly that they're going to be willing to do much with respect to Tibet. I'm very doubtful, for instance, that the Chinese leadership will agree to meet with the Dalai Lama," said Kamm, the executive director of the Dui Hua Foundation in San Francisco. He did not identify the officials he spoke to.

Kamm said one official told him "any sign of concession would be seen as a sign of weakness."

Kamm's group researches Chinese prisons and has helped to arrange the release of political prisoners.

The United States is represented on the Tibet trip by a second secretary from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington.

"He is somebody in the political section who speaks fluent Mandarin and his portfolio is Tibet," he said.

The protests in Tibet and in other provinces with sizable Tibetan populations have threatened to mar Beijing's effort to use the Olympics in August to showcase China as a confident, respected power.

President Bush and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Friday they want Chinese leaders to meet with the Dalai Lama to defuse tensions.

"It is absolutely clear that there are human rights abuses in Tibet," Rudd told reporters after meeting Bush in Washington.

European Union foreign ministers gathering in Slovenia on Friday appealed to China to resolve the crisis peacefully.

Associated Press Writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Min Lee in Hong Kong contributed to this report.