18 Aug 2008

China stepping up repression of Tibetans - activists

6:57 pm on 18 August 2008

China has stepped up repression in its ethnic Tibetan regions to prevent any protests during the Beijing Olympics, says an activist group.

Tibet, which Communist troops entered in 1950, witnessed violent rioting in March, which led to anti-government demonstrations across Tibetan areas of China, deeply embarrassing Beijing just months before the Games.

"To prevent potentially embarrassing protests inside Tibet, China has turned large parts of Tibet into a virtual prison for the duration of the Games," said Matt Whitticase, spokesperson for the Free Tibet Campaign.

The government's reaction to the Tibet unrest sparked demonstrations abroad that dogged the international leg of the Olympic torch relay and turned what was meant to be a symbol of Chinese unity into an obstacle course.

China poured security forces into its Tibetan areas, which extend across several western provinces, to quell the unrest, and Free Tibet Campaign said on Monday that the military build-up was accompanied by policies aimed at punishing activist monks and monasteries.

China's Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism who has lived in exile in India since a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, says continuing mistreatment of Tibetans violated Olympic values. "Unfortunately, the Olympic spirit is not being respected at all by Chinese officials in Tibet," he said.

Chinese officials have said they oppose any link between Tibet and the Olympics. They see the issue as an internal affair and view the demonstrations as the work of a small group of people bent on Tibet independence.