Actualités et événements
les protestants s'engagent pour une loi sur la liberté religieuse
  Lire la suite
News & Events
Reintroduced law jeopardizing status of some churches in Hungary
  Find out more
News
2008-03-27
Lhasa, China
Tibet monks complain about lack of religious freedom
A government-managed visit by foreign reporters to Tibet's capital backfired Thursday when Buddhist monks disrupted the tour, screaming there was no religious freedom and that the Dalai Lama was not to blame for Lhasa's recent violence.

The government had arranged the trip for the reporters to show how calm Lhasa was after the deadly riots shattered China's plans for a peaceful run-up to the Beijing Summer Olympics.

The outburst by a group of 30 monks came as the journalists, including an Associated Press reporter, were being shown around the Jokhang Temple -- one of Tibet's holiest shrines -- by government handlers in Lhasa.

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

They also said their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, had nothing to do with recent anti-government riots by Tibetans in Lhasa, where buildings were torched and looted, and ethnic Han Chinese were attacked.

The government has said the March 14 riots were masterminded by ''the Dalai clique,'' Beijing's term for the Dalai Lama and his supporters.

Government handlers shouted for the journalists to leave and tried to pull them away during the protest.

"They want us to crush 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 March 14 riots. The Chinese government says 22 people died, while Tibetan exiles say the violence plus a harsh crackdown afterward have left nearly 140 people dead.

The outburst by the monks came amid a morning of stage-managed events. Reporters had already been taken to a Tibet medical clinic that had been attacked nearby the Jokhang, and shown a clothing store where five girls had been trapped and burned to death.

The monks, who first spoke Tibetan and then switched to Mandarin so the reporters could understand them, said they knew they would probably be arrested for their actions but were willing to accept that.

They had rushed over to stop the reporters from being taken into an inner sanctum of the temple, saying they were upset that a government administrator was telling the reporters that Tibet had been part of China for centuries.

They said troops who had been guarding the temple since March 14 were removed the night before the visit by the reporters.

One monk said they were upset that some people brought to the temple for the visit by the journalists ''are not true believers but are 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.

China rarely allows foreign reporters into Tibet under normal circumstances, so the media tour was meant to underscore the communist leadership's determination to contain any damage ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August that was supposed to celebrate China as a modern, rising power.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference Thursday that he had no specific information on the latest protest.

"I would like to stress that including the monks the people of various ethnic groups in Tibet are resolutely safeguarding the national unity and oppose separatist activities," he said.

Later, the area around Jokhang was sealed off by People's Armed Police wearing helmets and carrying shields. They refused to say why they were there. The only people allowed to enter the area were those who live in the narrow lanes around the temple.

Most of the shops near the temple were also closed.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference Thursday that he had no specific information on the latest protest.

"I would like to stress that, including the monks, the people of various ethnic groups in Tibet are resolutely safeguarding the national unity and oppose separatist activities," he said.

The reporters were kept away from any potential hotspots, including the Ramoche monastery. Down a lane north of the Jokhang, Ramoche is where the violence started on March 14.

The narrow lanes leading to it were sealed off by riot police in dark blue uniforms.

The government handlers also told the reporters they would not be able to see Drepung and Sera monasteries, where initial protests were launched March 10.

The reporters were taken to places that had been well publicized on state television as places the rioters had attacked.

That included the Lhasa No. 2 Middle School near Ramoche, where protesters had hurled burning objects that set fire to one two-story building. Nobody was hurt at the school.

The principal, Deji Zhuoge, said he did not know why the school was attacked. He said 85 percent of the schools 620 students were Tibetan. ''We don't know what happened it was very chaotic that morning,'' he said.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday on the action by the monks, but did not say what the monks yelled out. "The media tour soon resumed," Xinhua said.

The rioting and four days of protests that preceded it were the worst anti-Chinese demonstrations in Lhasa in nearly two decades and they sparked protests in Tibetan areas across a vast portion of western China.

The Chinese government has maintained its response was measured and comparable to what any responsible government would do when faced with civil unrest.

Source : Associated Press (AP)
  Back