China says Tibet monks wont be punished

Beijing | Updated: Mar 29 2008, 05:36am hrs
China will not punish a group of Tibetan monks for disrupting a government-organized foreign media tour of Lhasa and voicing support for the Dalai Lama, a senior official said in a bid to allay fears of repercussions. Baema Chilain, vice-chairman of the Chinese-controlled Tibet Autonomous Region, also said separatists were planning to disrupt the Olympic torch relay in Tibet.

However, he pledged to ensure the flames security there and on its planned ascent of Mount Everest, the state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.

On Thursday, about 30 monks at the Jokhang Temple, one of the holiest in Tibet, shoved their way into a briefing and spent about 15 minutes telling reporters the government was lying about recent unrest. They also rejected Chinese claims the Tibetan spiritual leader was directing the rash of protests.

These monks who staged the bold protest will not be punished, Xinhua quoted Baema Chilain as saying.

But what they said is not true. They were attempting to mislead the worlds opinion, he said. The facts shouldnt be distorted.The Dalai Lama, Tibets spiritual leader who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, has condemned the violence and denies he seeks more than greater autonomy for his homeland.

More than two weeks of unrest in Tibet and western China, including violence in Lhasa on March 14, and Chinas response ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August have sparked international controversy.

China hopes the Olympics showcase the achievements of the worlds fourth-largest economy and its rise as a global power, but the Games have become a lightning rod for criticism.To our knowledge, some separatists from within and outside China are seeking to sabotage the Olympic torch relay within Tibet, said Baema Chilain.

The flame arrives in Beijing on Monday.

We are confident and capable of ensuring the security of the relay and taking it to the top of the peak, Chilain said.In Canberra, Australia, police wrestled one protester to the ground during an otherwise peaceful protest by about 100 Tibet supporters in front of the Chinese embassy on Friday. The Tibetan community has promised a bigger protest next month when the Olympic torch arrives.

In Nepal, where there have been demonstrations almost every day since the trouble began this month, about a dozen pro-Tibet protesters jumped the walls of a building housing the offices of the United Nations on Friday, calling for U.N. intervention following the unrest in the Himalayan region.