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China says releases more than 1,000 after Tibet riots

November 27, 2008

Reuters
November 26, 2008

BEIJING, Nov 26 (Reuters) -- China has released more than 1,000
people detained after rioting in Tibet in March, state media on
Wednesday quoted a senior official as saying.

"Most of the released rioters had turned themselves in right after
the riot," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Zhu Weiqun, a vice
minister who handles relations with ethnic minorities and religious
groups, as saying.

It did not elaborate. Xinhua said he made the comments in an
interview with the BBC.

Zhu, who said there was no "suppression" in Tibet, added that the
suspects "had enjoyed all legitimate rights based on Chinese law",
Xinhua paraphrased him as saying.

"Local courts sent interpreters to help all rioters in the trial and
ethnic background and religious beliefs were not considered when
handing down sentences," Zhu said.

Rights groups say suspected rioters were subjected to harsh treatment
in detention, and did not get fair trials.

China blames Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his
supporters for instigating the March 14 riots in Lhasa, which later
spilled over into the rest of Tibet and neighbouring Chinese
provinces with Tibetan populations.

The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an
abortive uprising against Chinese rule, has denied the allegations.

Zhu repeated China's stance that the Dalai Lama was not interested in
peaceful protest.

"Many people died in the March 14 Lhasa riot, and he called it a
peaceful protest ... is it the so-called non-violence?" Zhu said.

China has been stepping up its attacks on the Dalai Lama after the
failure of the latest round of talks between Beijing and the Buddhist
leader's representatives.

The Dalai Lama says he wants genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

But China reviles him as a separatist, and officials often accuse him
of secretly harbouring pro-independence sentiments that he has
publicly rejected. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jeremy Lurence)
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