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China jails 12 more Tibetans over March riots

July 12, 2008

The Boston Globe (USA)
July 11, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese courts jailed 12 more rioters for their
roles in unrest in Tibet, state media said, weeks before the Beijing
Olympics and after Beijing deported a Tibetan British woman it
accused of anti-government activism.

China's official Xinhua news agency said late on Thursday that to
date China has convicted 42 people for their role in the riots while
another 116 await trial. Some 953 people were detained by the police,
Xinhua said, quoting Palma Trily, the No. 1 vice-chairman of the
Tibet Autonomous Region government.

He did not give details on the length of the latest 12 sentences
handed down on June 19 and 20 but said neither these rioters nor 30
people convicted earlier had received death sentences.

"But whether or not the death penalty will be applied for suspects
still being investigated has to be determined based on Chinese laws,"
Palma Trily was quoted as saying.

China has made security a top priority for the Beijing Olympics and
has deployed a 100,000-strong anti-terrorism force and
surface-to-air-missiles in major Olympics venues.

Rights groups say China is using Olympic security as an excuse to
crack down on internal dissent, particularly in Xinjiang and in
Tibet, where riots on March 14 sparked anti-Chinese protests around the world.

On Thursday, China defended its decision this week to deport an
ethnic Tibetan woman who is a British citizen, saying she was a key
member of the pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress and had engaged
in unspecified illegal activities in the country.

Dechen Pemba, 30, was escorted onto a plane to London after being
interrogated by Chinese security officials in Beijing on Tuesday.

She told Reuters by telephone from London that she was innocent and
said the deportation was made by a paranoid government less than one
month before the start of the Olympics. The Tibetan Youth Congress
denied she was a member, and she also issued a statement denying any
association with the congress.

Overseas Tibetan advocacy groups said residents of Beijing were
targets simply because of their ethnicity.

"There's an unprecedented security sweep at the moment in Beijing due
to the Olympics," said Kate Saunders, of the International Campaign
for Tibet. "It seems as though almost every Tibetan in Beijing is
potentially under suspicion."

China blames Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his
supporters of instigating the March 14 riots in Lhasa, which later
spilled over into the rest of Tibet and neighboring 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.

Exiled Tibetans and others dogged the international leg of the
Olympic torch relay in ensuing weeks, while some Chinese living or
studying abroad staged nationalistic counter-protests.

(Reporting by Guo Shipeng and Benjamin Kang Lim in Beijing and
Alistair Scrutton in New Delhi; Editing by Ken Wills and Valerie Lee)
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