RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Turning now to Tibet. Violent anti-government riots earlier this month in Lhasa, the capital, left many dead. The number of dead and how they died is in dispute. In a moment, we'll hear from China's ambassador to the U.S. First, we reach one of few reporters allowed into Lhasa since the riots. Reporter Geoff Dyer is with the Financial Times. Good morning.

Mr. GEOFF DYER (Reporter, Financial Times): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now how was it that a small group of reporters was allowed back into Tibet and access to what's going on there?

Mr. DYER: Well, we're not entirely sure exactly how the group of reporters was chosen, but clearly, the Chinese government felt that they were getting a very bad press in the international media and they wanted to bring some reporters in to try and show what they think is their side of the story.

MONTAGNE: And what did you see?

Mr. DYER: Well, what the Chinese government has been very keen to show us is that the war is - on March the 14th, a very violent ethnic riot in the city of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. And there is substantial evidence to back that up. Walking around the city last night, you could see that there were huge numbers of burnt-out shops. You could still smell smoke in the air, and there are obvious signs that there had been a very dramatic and violent event in this area a couple of weeks ago.

MONTAGNE: Were able to tell, though, who was attacking who terms of the sides, if you will?

Mr. DRYER: From talking to eye witnesses and other accounts of what has happened, it does seem to be clear that the riot was conducted by the local Tibetan population directly against Han Chinese migrants. It was also directed against the Han-Muslim population, and it was directed against government buildings. The thing is that what the Chinese government wants to do is to only focus discussion on this one riot on March 14th and to try and describe it as a criminal activity. And a number of problems with that explanation of events, the first thing is it ignores the four days of apparently peaceful protests at Taipei and Lhasa before the March 14th riot. And it also, by trying to describe this event of the purely criminal act, it means that there's no discussion about why people would actually behave in such a violent and catastrophic way. Usually, when you get events like that, without wishing to condone violence, usually there's an indication of some deep-seeded political problems. And those issues haven't really been discussed publicly in China yet so far since the riot.

MONTAGNE: You know the Chinese, I gather, we carefully monitoring your group of reporters. One thing happened unexpectedly, I gather, and that was a disruption of a visit to a temple.

Mr. DYER: That's right. We visited this morning one of the main monasteries in central Lhasa. And one of the head monks was giving us an explanation of how, actually, the results of peace and harmony between monks and the Tibetan population and the Han Chinese population. All of the sudden, 30 young monks stormed into where we were standing, surrounded us, and started chanting a number of things, one of which was free Tibet - another, which was offering support for the Dalai Lama. They also told us that we were being hoodwinked by the authorities because they said there'd been a heavy military presence around the monastery until just shortly before we arrived, at which time the army disappeared. But it was a very confusing atmosphere. It was a lot people shouting at the same time. It was often quite hard to work out what was going on. But it was absolutely not something that was on the script of what we were supposed to see at that time.

MONTAGNE: Thanks for joining us.

Mr. DYER: My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Geoff Dyer writes for the Financial Times, and he joined us from Lhasa, Tibet.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.