China keeps pro-Tibet websites blocked
AFP[Friday, August 22, 2008 11:31]

The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama
BEIJING — Pro-Tibet websites remained blocked in the Olympic press centre and elsewhere on Friday, amid reports that Chinese troops had opened fire on protesters in a remote area of southwest China.

Sites for the Tibetan government-in-exile and Tibetan activist groups were unaccessible, as well as others deemed sensitive by China's communist rulers such as those linked to spiritual group Falungong and Chinese dissidents.

The restrictions were upheld as some of the 25,000 foreign reporters who have come to China for the Games sought to follow-up a statement from the Dalai Lama that troops had again fired on Tibetan protestors in Sichuan province.

In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde published on Thursday, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said the Chinese army fired on a crowd and that there were casualties.

One of his aides later told AFP the incident occurred in Garze town, Sichuan province, an area where tensions have been high since Tibetans began protesting in March against China's 57-year rule of their Himalayan region.

The Dalai Lama also said 400 people had been killed in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa alone since March.

China has enforced a major security crackdown on Tibet and the other areas of western China with Tibetan populations, such as Garze, since the unrest erupted.

Tibet remains largely out of bounds for foreign reporters, while other sensitive areas in western China also remain closed.

Police and government officials in Garze contacted by AFP on Friday either denied there had been any unrest there this week, or said they did not know.

China promised greater media freedoms for the foreign press in covering the Olympics, including unfettered access to the Internet.

However it has continued to block sensitive sites, such as those linked to pro-Tibet groups and ones giving information on the Chinese military's deadly crackdown on democracy protests in 1989.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet. The spiritual leader insists he wants autonomy and religious freedom for his Himalayan homeland rather than independence.

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