Thursday, March 20, 2008
Reports from China's southwestern Sichuan province say many people have died in riots since the government sent soldiers to quell pro-independence demonstrations in and around Tibet. Witnesses reported as many as 10 people killed in Aba prefecture when government troops fired on demonstrators, the Reuters international news service said. China has sent thousands of soldiers to the region to short-circuit the unrest, which has led activists to call for a boycott of the summer Olympics scheduled for Beijing in August. The Chinese government is anxious for the games to go smoothly as it shows the world its new prominence. But rising tensions in Tibet, which China overran in 1950, have spread to neighboring areas with large Tibetan populations. China also appears to have started a public relations campaign to discredit the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, who has lived in exile since 1959. The government said the Dalai Lama was orchestrating the violence to embarrass China before the Olympics and agitate for independence in Tibet. The Tibet Daily newspaper, which is owned by the government, called the Dalai Lama "a faithful tool of Western anti-China forces, the general source of social chaos in Tibet," Reuters said. U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia said as many as 2,000 monks and their supporters were protesting in Huangnan prefecture in Sichuan.