Monks disrupt Tibet media visit

This morning, while driving to work, I heard a piece of news about Tibet along with a cry and Tibetan words.
A monk was crying! According to the news, Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital protested against Chinese rule during an official conference for foreign journalists put on by the Chinese authorities.

“Foreign journalists were expelled from Tibet at the height of the unrest, but on Wednesday China allowed a group of about two dozen reporters into Lhasa for a three-day escorted visit.
The BBC’s request to be included in the group was turned down.

The monks’ protest came as they toured the Jokhang Temple – one of Tibet’s holiest shrines.

One monk shouted “Tibet is not free, Tibet is not free” before he started to cry, an AP journalist at the scene, Charles Hutzler, reported.

Another monk said the rioting on 14 March “had nothing to do with the Dalai Lama”.

The monks said they had not been allowed to leave the temple since the rioting.

Government handlers told the journalists to leave and tried to pull them away, the reporter said.

Later, the area around the Jokhang Temple was sealed off by riot police.

The protests began on 10 March and developed into violent rioting in Lhasa before spreading to neighbouring regions.

China says 19 people were killed by rioters. The Tibetan government-in-exile says about 140 people have been killed in a crackdown by Chinese security forces.

‘Divided city’

The group of journalists has also visited a medical clinic and a clothing store, where Chinese authorities say five girls were trapped and burned to death, AP’s reporter added.
A reporter for the London-based Financial Times, meanwhile, said that the Tibetan quarter of the city resembled a war zone, with burnt-out buildings, shuttered businesses and groups of soldiers on every corner.

“The smell of burning buildings still hangs in the air nearly two weeks after violent rioting swept through the old Tibetan quarter of Lhasa,” the Financial Times’s Geoff Dyer reported.

The rioting appeared to have been more prolonged and destructive than previously thought, he wrote.

Charles Hutzler described to the BBC a city divided.

“In sort of the more recently built up, very Chinese part of Lhasa, life seems to be going on fairly normally,” he said.

“But in the older, Tibetan section of the town and the blocks leading to it we could see the remains of burnt-out buildings.”

The reporters said there was a heavy security presence in the Tibetan quarter, with squads of police and soldiers on every corner.

But in the new town, they described life as returning to a semblance of normality, with shops and restaurants busy with customers.

Treading carefully

On Wednesday, US President George Bush had “encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

But the fact that it has taken Mr Bush this long to talk directly to Mr Hu shows that the US is treading carefully in its response, says the BBC’s Jonathan Beale in Washington.

Despite calls from rights groups for an Olympic boycott, the White House has already made it clear that Mr Bush will still attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games”

Story from BBC NEWS

“Protesting monks dash China’s show of peace in Tibet

By Charles Hutzler
A GROUP of monks overturned a carefully orchestrated visit for foreign reporters to Tibet’s capital, an embarrassment for the Chinese government struggling yesterday to prove Lhasa was calm.
The government had arranged the trip to show how peaceful Lhasa was after riots shattered China’s plans for a peaceful run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

But the outburst by a group of 30 monks in red robes came as the journalists were being shown around the Jokhang Temple – one of Tibet’s holiest shrines – by Chinese government handlers.

“Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” yelled one young Buddhist monk, who then started to cry.

They insisted their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, had nothing to do with the anti-government riots in Lhasa, where buildings were burned and looted and ethnic Han Chinese were attacked.

Officials shouted for the journalists to leave and tried to pull them away.

“They want us to curse the Dalai Lama, and that is not right,” one monk said during the 15-minute outburst.

“This had nothing to do with the Dalai Lama,” said another, referring to the 14 March riots in which the Chinese government says 22 people died, while Tibetan exiles claim the death toll is 140.

Reporters were earlier taken to a Tibet medical clinic that was attacked by protesters and were shown a clothes shop where five girls had been trapped and burned to death.

The monks, who first spoke Tibetan and then switched to Mandarin so journalists could understand them, said they knew they would probably be arrested.

Troops who had been guarding the temple were removed the night before the visit, they said. One monk said authorities planted other monks in the monastery to talk to the journalists, calling them “not true believers but… Communist Party members.”

“They are all officials, they (the government] arranged for them to come in. And we aren’t allowed to go out because they say we could destroy things, but we never did anything,” another monk said.

Later the Chinese-installed vice-governor of Tibet said the Jokhang monks were confined to the monastery because some had joined protesters. He promised they would not be punished for their outburst.”

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