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China jails 30 for Tibetan riots

April 30, 2008

Ben Blanchard
Montreal Gazette
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court jailed 30 people for terms ranging
from three years to life on Tuesday for their roles in Tibet's deadly
riots, which triggered anti-China protests across the globe ahead of the
Beijing Olympics.

China has blamed Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his
government-in-exile for plotting the riots, in which at least 18
"innocent civilians," according to Beijing, were killed by Tibetan mobs
in the regional capital, Lhasa, last month.

Lhasa Intermediate People's Court announced the verdicts at an "open
trial" that lasted all day and was attended by more than 200 people,
including Buddhist monks, medical workers and "masses from all walks of
life," state media said.

It was the first batch of sentences announced since the March 14
violence and a Chinese crackdown that led to protests and disruption of
the global Olympic torch relay, most notably in London, Paris and San

Crowds of Chinese waved red national flags and cheered the Olympic torch
in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, the last international leg of
its harried journey around the world.


Seven schools, five hospitals and 120 homes were set ablaze and 908
shops were looted in the violence, the state news agency Xinhua said.
Total damage was more than 244 million yuan ($35 million).

Three people were sentenced to life -- 30 year-old businessman Cering, a
monk named Basang and Soi'nam Cering, a driver with a Lhasa real estate
company who Xinhua had previously identified as Soi'nam Norbu, the court
was quoted as saying.

It said Soi'nam Cering, born in 1988, joined mobs which burnt vehicles
in a square near the Johkang Monastery, smashed police stations and fire
engines with stones, and assaulted firemen.

"He was convicted of arson and disrupting public services," the court
said in a press release.

Basang, a monk from Doilungdeqen County in Lhasa, led a group of 10
people -- including five monks who were all sentenced to at least 15
years in jail. They destroyed the local government office, smashed or
burnt down 11 shops, stole valuables and attacked policemen, it said.

Businessman Cering had incited others to loot shops and burn vehicles
and buildings in his home county some 70 km (45 miles) outside Lhasa,
during riots on March 15 and 16, the court said.

Some Western politicians have urged world leaders to boycott the opening
ceremony of the Olympics, a sentiment echoed by a Nobel Peace laureate,
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

The European Parliament has also urged EU leaders to stay away from the
opening ceremony unless China starts talks with the Dalai Lama.

Seemingly bowing to international pressure, Beijing said last Friday
that it would hold talks with envoys of the spiritual leader.

When asked about progress, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu
said she had few details.

"As far as I know, issues relating to dialogue and contact are still to
be discussed," she said.

(Additional reporting by Grant McCool in Hanoi; Writing by Nick Macfie;
Editing by John Chalmers)

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