Fresh Protests, New Arrests, and Foreign Reporters in Tibet
The maroon-robed monks from the Tashilunpo monastery, the religious seat of the influential Panchen Lama, managed to make their way onto a city street on Monday, local residents said.
Paramilitary People’s Armed Police quickly moved in to prevent the group from marching through the town of Xigaze, they said. The police had already been deployed throughout the town since hundreds of Tibetans rampaged through the capital, Lhasa, on March 14 attacking ethnic Han Chinese and burning Chinese shops and offices.
Meanwhile, the government has reported that 660 people have been arrested for the participation in the unrest over the past two weeks, though few details about the arrests have been given, according to the New York Times:
It was unclear from the announcement how many of the 660 had surrendered voluntarily and how many would be formally charged with criminal offenses. Nor was it clear whether all were ethnic Tibetans…
Tibet and neighboring provinces with large Tibetan populations are now under tight military control, with roadblocks and house-to-house searches for suspects. But there have been daily reports of protests and sporadic violence in some regions, people in those areas report.
This week, the Chinese government issued a “most wanted” list with the names of 53 people who it says took part in antigovernment protests or riots, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The group of foreign journalists on a government-sponsored tour of Tibet have arrived and are filing their first reports. AP writes:
The group of 26 reporters were closely watched by officials from three levels of government during the trip, which comes amid rising international pressure over the government’s crackdown less than five months ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
The bus drive from the airport into the Tibetan capital was purposely slow, taking about 90 minutes to go 65 kilometers (40 miles) despite repeated pleas from the reporters to speed up.
The bus passed three police checkpoints on the way. Single police officers were also stationed at almost every cross street on the road to Lhasa.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China, which has several hundred members here in Beijing, just weighed in with the following statement about today’s trip to Tibet for a select group of foreign reporters.
Chinese authorities have arranged a trip to Tibet from March 26-28 for a small group of international media. This brief, tightly managed trip falls far short of fulfilling China’s promise, made during its bid for the 2008 Olympic Games, of free media reporting.
The FCCC calls on the Chinese government to allow all other foreign correspondents who wish to report in Tibet, and Tibetan areas in other provinces, to be permitted to do so at the earliest possible date — and to enable them to work and travel without government interference.
Journalists from the Wall Street Journal were also invited. Tim Johnson commented unfavorably on the selection in an earlier blog article:
Like most aspects of this unfolding story of unrest in Tibet, the Foreign Ministry is keeping a strong hand on how it plays in the media and who tells the story. Interesting that Chinese diplomats want two international newspapers with a financial focus to get first dibs.
President Bush has also raised concerns about events in Tibet and called for media access in a phone call to President Hu Jintao today. From Reuters:
“The president raised his concerns about the situation in Tibet and encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives and to allow access for journalists and diplomats,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
See also Notebook: Beijing Olympics (CBS News):