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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China says can guarantee grip on Tibet "forever"

July 1, 2010

Ben Blanchard
June 29, 2010

LHASA, China (Reuters) - China can maintain its
grip on Tibet "forever," a senior official said
on Tuesday, but conceded that a heavy security
presence was still needed to ensure order in
Lhasa two years after deadly riots.

Hao Peng, deputy Communist Party boss and deputy
governor in mountainous Tibet, fingered
unidentified "anti-Chinese" forces and exiled
spiritual leader the Dalai Lama as the main
threat to a region which has been hit by sporadic unrest since 2008.

"We have the ability and confidence to maintain
stability in Tibet forever, and we will
ultimately achieve long-term order and
stability," Hao told visiting journalists, in a
city still tense two years after it was ravaged by deadly ethnic rioting.

"What you see in the streets, including the
police and other legal forces, are necessary
measures to maintain stability," he said,
speaking in an ornate room in the Tibet government offices.

At least 19 people died in the March 2008 riots
in Lhasa, which sparked waves of protests across
Tibetan areas. Pro-Tibet groups say more than 200
people were killed in a subsequent crackdown.

Protests against Chinese rule, led by Buddhist
monks, gave way to torrid violence, with rioters
torching shops and turning on residents including Han Chinese and Hui Muslims.

Many Tibetans see Hans as intruders threatening
their culture and religion, and say they have
been treated harshly by the government since the riots.

Beijing has denied being heavy-handed, and says
it has poured billions of dollars into boosting
Tibet's development, money it says benefits mainly Tibetans.

Hao said peace had returned and blamed overseas
agitators for the continued presence of armed
police in Lhasa, especially in the old Tibetan quarter.

"The situation in Tibet is more stable than
before the March 14 incident," he said.

"The Dalai clique and some anti-Chinese forces
internationally have colluded to make trouble in
Tibet. Because of this, we have to take a lot of
measures, to ensure the stability of the legal
system and the stability of Tibet."

Exiled Tibetans and rights groups say those in
Tibet are living under difficult restraints and
many are still waiting to hear from relatives and
friends who disappeared after the violence.

"Two years down the line there is still no
normality across the Tibetan plateau. It's still
extremely tense," said Nicholas Bequelin, a
researcher on China with Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group.

"It's still very difficult to get things done,
there are still a lot of restrictions, a lot of
surveillance, a lot of troops. Certainly tourism
and travel is not back to normal."

The area is usually off-limits to foreign
reporters, apart from those on rare and
tightly-controlled government trips like the one
Hao met with, which makes it hard to assess competing accounts.


Hao, repeating the government's standard line
about on-off talks with representatives of the
Dalai Lama, said China was willing to talk if independence was off the table.

"The core of this policy is for the Dalai Lama to
abandon Tibet independence, stop separatist
activities, and acknowledge that Tibet is an
inalienable part of China," he said.

"If he does this then the door to talks is always open."

The Dalai Lama denies China's charges against
him, and says he only seeks more meaningful
autonomy for Tibet and that he has never
advocated violence. China says it does not believe him.

But his image is not allowed to be shown publicly
in what is officially called the Tibet Autonomous
Region despite the reverence many Tibetan
Buddhists have for him. Every year some make the
dangerous trek to India and back to see him in person.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama fled
into exile following an abortive uprising in 1959.

Hao said the prohibition on his image was
natural. "The Dalai Lama is not merely a
religious figure, he is also a mastermind of
separatist activities. No sovereign country in
the world would allow the hanging of a portrait
of a person like that," he said.

(Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison, editing by Miral Fahmy)
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