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China says Tibet rioters trying to wreck Olympics

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating riots in Tibet in which dozens may have died and said his followers were trying to “incite sabotage” of Beijing's August Olympic Games.

Wen also defended the crackdown on Lhasa, capital of the Himalayan region, after last week's protests, and on neighboring Chinese provinces where copycat rioting by Tibetans erupted over the weekend.

“There is ample fact and plenty of evidence proving this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique,” Wen told a news conference.

“This has all the more revealed the consistent claims by the Dalai clique that they pursue not independence but peaceful dialogue are nothing but lies.”

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism who fled into exile in India in 1959, has denied Chinese accusations he incited the rioting.

The Nobel peace laureate says he wants autonomy for Tibet within China but not outright independence.

Monk-led anti-China protests in Lhasa, the biggest in almost two decades, turned ugly on Friday, weighing uncomfortably on the Communist leadership anxious to polish its image in the build-up to the Olympic Games.

Wen said the protesters “wanted to incite the sabotage of the Olympic Games in order to achieve their unspeakable goal.”

“It started off with just one or two incidents. Because of technology, because of word of mouth, word quickly spread. This was very spontaneous.”

Western nations have called on Beijing to exercise restraint, but International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told Reuters in Trinidad on Monday that there had been “absolutely no calls” from governments for a Beijing Games boycott.

Foreign policy analyst Tony Kevin at the Australian National University said the muted international reaction to the crackdown was expected, given China's economic and strategic importance.

“China ... is subjected to different standards of human rights than less important countries,” he told Reuters.

The Dalai Lama called at the weekend for an investigation into what he described as cultural genocide in Tibet, which Communist troops entered in 1950, but Wen rejected the charge.

“Those claims that the Chinese government is engaged in cultural genocide are nothing but lies,” he said.

Exiled representatives of Tibet in Dharamsala put the death toll from last Friday's protests at 80.

But Chinese authorities said security forces exercised restraint in response to the Lhasa burning and looting, using only non-lethal weapons, and only 13 “innocent civilians” died. 

“Local government and relevant departments in Tibet have exercised massive restraint according to the Constitution and laws, quickly quelled this incident, and protected the rights of Lhasa residents and of people of all ethnic groups in Tibet,” Wen said.

There was no word from Lhasa of any action taken after the passing of a Monday midnight deadline for people involved in the rioting to surrender.

But a source in regular contact with Lhasa who had spoken to a witness said police were going door to door looking for those involved.

“They're rounding up people from their houses,” he said.

Foreign journalists are not allowed to travel to Tibet without permission but Wen said China would consider organizing a trip.

In neighboring Sichuan province, an ethnic Tibetan man said he knew of no fresh outbreaks of unrest since Monday.

“Now they are bringing back stability,” he told Reuters by telephone, requesting anonymity out of fear for his safety.

“There are so many police and People's Armed Police it will be difficult for anything to spread.”

“I'm sure the People's Liberation Army is waiting too. In the background waiting, if the situation really gets out of hand.” (Reuters)