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China detains 81 people in Tibet crackdown

China detains 81 people in Tibet crackdown

Author: Gillian Wong
Publication: Yahoo News
Date: January 28, 2009
URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090128/ap_on_re_as/as_china_tibet;_ylt=AgB68j3g63Ab_I8Vtx6kvyABxg8F

China is launching a security sweep in Tibet ahead of one of the region's most sensitive anniversaries in years, with state media saying at least 81 people have been detained.

Tibet independence advocates said Wednesday the anti-crime crackdown in the Himalayan region appeared aimed at intimidating Tibetans ahead of the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that saw the Dalai Lama flee into exile.

China has been preparing for the possibility of more unrest in Tibet since deadly rioting in the capital Lhasa on March 14 last year sparked the biggest anti-government protests among Tibetans in decades - and a major military crackdown.

China claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, while many Tibetans assert their Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.

The public security bureau of Lhasa launched a "strike hard" campaign against crime on Jan. 18, with raids on residential areas, Internet cafes, bars, rented rooms, hotels and guesthouses, the state-run Tibetan Daily said in a Sunday report posted on the China Tibet News, a state news Web portal.

The story didn't say whether the people detained were Tibetan, Han Chinese or other ethnicities.

The "strike hard" campaigns are crime crackdowns in which normal arrest and prosecution procedures are usually waived to maximize the number of people detained. Though they normally focus on criminals, people suspected of anti-government activities in places like Tibet and the restive, largely Muslim region of Xinjiang also are targeted.

By Saturday, authorities had detained 51 people for unspecified criminal activities and taken in 30 others for robbery, prostitution and theft, the Tibetan Daily report said.

Among them were two people who had "reactionary music" on their mobile phones, the report said.

A woman who answered the phone at the Lhasa public security bureau hung up after saying the office was not authorized to speak with the media. Calls to the Lhasa government office rang unanswered Wednesday, amid the weeklong national holiday for the Lunar New Year.

The International Campaign for Tibet said the latest "strike hard" campaign "appears to be intended to intimidate Tibetans still further" ahead of the period in March that marks the 1959 independence uprising as well as the Tibetan New Year.

Tibetans launched the rebellion March 10, 1959, to try to oust the Chinese, but the uprising was soon crushed while the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India.

The first day of the new year according to the Tibetan calendar falls on Feb. 25, about a month after the Chinese celebrate their Lunar New Year.

Lhasa exploded March 14 last year when protests against Chinese rule turned violent. Ethnic Chinese residents were attacked and businesses, shops and vehicles were looted and torched. The protests spread into other areas of western China with large ethnic Tibetan populations.

Beijing has said 22 people died, but Tibetan supporters say many times that number were killed in the protests and the subsequent military crackdown.


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