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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

China Sentences 30 for Involvement in Tibet Riots

April 30, 2008

By Jill Drew
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BEIJING, -- A Chinese court Tuesday sentenced 30 people to jail for
their alleged participation in last month's deadly riot in Lhasa, the
first convictions following an aggressive manhunt to find the leaders of
anti-government protests that swept through Tibetan areas on China's
western plateau.

Those convicted will serve terms that range from three years to life in
prison, state media reported. More than 200 people attended the "open
trial," according to the state media, although it was unclear if any of
the accused had legal representation. Foreign journalists are barred
from reporting in Tibet.

China's handling of Tibetan unrest has drawn protests around the world,
most visibly along the route of the Olympic torch. Its "journey of
harmony" became a path of international confrontation as the torch
traveled this month through 19 cities on its way to Beijing for the 2008
Summer Games.

Authorities in Tibet have moved swiftly to arrest hundreds believed to
be involved in the protests and to dispatch with their trials, as
officials prepare for the most controversial leg of the torch run --
over Mount Everest, through Tibet and into its capital, Lhasa.
Weather-permitting, the torchbearers should make their ascent in the
next few days. A small group of journalists allowed to cover the event
arrived at the Everest base camp Monday.

An American caught with a "Free Tibet" banner last week on the Nepal
side of Everest has been deported, the Associated Press reported. Nepal
has ordered officials to stop any protests on the mountain during the
torch run, even if that means using deadly force.

It is unclear how many others are awaiting trial in Lhasa. Jiang
Zaiping, deputy head of the Lhasa police, told Chinese reporters last
week that 170 are on a "wanted list" and 82 of those have been arrested.
Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, told
reporters at a news conference in Beijing earlier this month that 403
people had been arrested in connection with the March 14 riot.

Pro-Tibetan protests, some violent, broke out in several western Chinese
provinces following the Lhasa riot and exile groups say as many as 2,300
people have been arrested. That figure could not be independently verified.

In Lhasa, Chinese authorities say 22 people were killed; Tibetan exile
groups say scores more died. Neither figure could be confirmed. Also,
five hospitals, seven schools and 120 homes were set on fire and 908
stores were looted during the March 14 riot, the Chinese government said.

The Intermediate People's Court of Lhasa handed down 30 sentences
Tuesday. Three people received life sentences, according to government
media. One was a monk, identified as Basang, who was charged with
leading 10 people, including five other monks, to destroy a local
government office, burn and loot 11 shops and attack police officers,
the official New China News Agency reported. Two of the monks who were
with him got 20 years in jail; the other three got 15.

"It's impossible to say whether these are fair trials or not," said
Cheng Hai, a Beijing lawyer, one of 18 who signed an open letter on
April 2 offering their services as criminal defense lawyers to the
accused. "I don't know if they received enough legal assistance."

Another lawyer who signed the letter, Teng Biao, said the government
pressured them to withdraw their offer. Teng said the Justice and Public
Security bureaus in Beijing called him and organized a meeting after the
letter was submitted. "The Tibet issue is very sensitive," he said he
was told. "Don't get involved."

The convictions come on the same day that Human Rights Watch, a global
advocacy group, released an extensive report documenting that Chinese
lawyers who argue cases deemed by the government to be politically
sensitive or potentially embarrassing face consequences including
harassment, physical assault and loss of their license.

Jiang Yu, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, dismissed the report,
saying the group is biased against China. She said the accused in Tibet
were dealt with according to the law "in a fair and just way."

Nicholas Bequelin, China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said lawyers
were pressured to stay away from the Tibet cases "to prevent people from
mounting a vigorous defense and to keep Chinese repression in Tibet
under wraps."

The Chinese government has insisted that its handling of the Tibetan
unrest is an internal matter and that outside agitators and separatists
led by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, incited people to
protest to sabotage China's hosting of the Olympics. Chinese officials
recently announced that they would contact the Dalai Lama's envoy to see
if there was a basis for discussions, but Jiang told reporters Tuesday
that "the specifics of the contact and consultation are still to be
further discussed."

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama, who has denied instigating protests and
has long said he is willing to accept Tibet as a part of China, said
that as of yet, the Chinese have only made verbal contact with the envoy.

Meanwhile, three pro-Tibet activists Tuesday were denied entry to Hong
Kong, where the Olympic torch relay is set to resume on Thursday. Matt
Whitticase from the Free Tibet Campaign was deported to the United
Kingdom and Tsering Lama and Kate Woznow from Students for a Free Tibet
were sent back to the United States.

"Everywhere one looks, China is slamming the door in the face of free
expression," Whitticase said in a statement. Reuters news service
reported that a senior official admitted the incident might have hurt
Hong Kong's free and open image, but said the city should be judged by
its positive overall track record of allowing protests.

Researcher Liu Liu contributed to this report.
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