China Clamps Down on News from Tibet Protests China's crackdown against Tibetan protesters has reportedly spread to neighboring provinces. Details of the protests, and Beijing's response, have been hard hard to come by due to efforts by China to stem the flow of news from the affected region.
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China Clamps Down on News from Tibet Protests

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China Clamps Down on News from Tibet Protests

China Clamps Down on News from Tibet Protests

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From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Ari Shapiro.

In Tibet, China's crackdown against Tibetan protestors has spread. Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has called on the international community to investigate whether cultural genocide has taken place. He accused China of relying on force to achieve peace.

We're joined by two journalists now: our own Louisa Lim - we'll speak with her in a moment - and from inside Tibet, James Miles is with the Economist magazine. And James, tell us what you've been seeing in Lhasa, where you are.

Mr.�JAMES MILES (Journalist, The Economist, Tibet): Well today, it appears that the authorities have exerted much more effective control over the old Tibetan quarter, which was torn by riots on Friday and Saturday. There are now security forces patrolling the streets wearing helmets and carrying automatic rifles. They are occasionally firing - single shots mostly, but I heard a crackle of what sounded like automatic gunfire close to the hotel.

Almost all residents are now keeping to their homes, even staying away from rooftops of fear that the odd, stray bullet might come close. So we have not seen today the kind of rioting that had occurred in the last two days.

What we've not yet seen, however, is the kind of house-to-house searches and mass arrests that many Tibetans fear will occur at some stage and possibly after the expiry of this deadline of midnight on Monday, by which the authorities have said that rioters must turn themselves in.

SHAPIRO: Have you been able to get to the hospitals? Do you have any sense of the scope of the casualties?

Mr.�MILES: No, it's

SHAPIRO: Are you there? I think you may have just cut out. It appears we've lost James Miles on the phone, so we'll go now to NPR's Louisa Lim, who was turned back close to a town with a large Tibetan population. And Louisa, I understand Chinese authorities have sealed off the entire region. Is that right?

LOUISA LIM: That's right. I'm near the town of Xiahe in Gansu Province, which is about 2,000 kilometers from Lhasa, and it's a place which has seen quite big protests. On Friday, 3,000 monks marched through the streets, according to eyewitnesses, and yesterday, it said about 4,000 monks gathered, and the Chinese security forces used tear gas to try and repel the crowds, and in fact gunshots were reported.

And now, that whole region has been sealed off, the whole Gannan region, and there were roadblocks all along the way, stopping and checking cars going in and checking the ID of every single person in all the cars.

Interestingly, they seemed to be looking more for foreigners, to stop people going in, so what is happening there is not widely known, rather than looking at people coming out. And it is significant because this area was historically part of Tibet, but it is no longer part of the Tibet Autonomous Region as demarcated by the Chinese government. So it just shows how much the unrest is spreading and also the threats of support for the Dalai Lama on the Tibetan plaza among the Tibetan population.

SHAPIRO: So you're saying that the kind of protests and violence that we've seen in Tibet in the last couple days has now moved outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region, even to areas where there are a lot of Tibetans, in what is considered to be China.

LIM: That's right. Although it's very difficult to know exactly what has been going on because people are very, very scared to talk. And when you talk to people coming out of the area, often they'll say I just can't tell you what's happening. It's too dangerous. It's too dangerous for me.

So we don't know the scale of the protests. People were telling me that there were a number of deaths in Xiahe. I've heard people saying there were four to five deaths. That's not confirmed, and there were no eyewitnesses who've actually seen those deaths as yet, but it does appear as if there is quite significant unrest.

And people from the next town up were also telling me that they - their town was under curfew, and cars were not allowed on the streets at night and this sort of thing. So it does seem as if the Chinese authorities are trying to tighten their grip on the region and using force to do so.

SHAPIRO: This can't be good for China's public image, coming just a few months before the Olympics in Beijing.

LIM: No, I mean it's a disaster for China's public relations campaign overseas, and what's interesting is the way that the Chinese government has tried to play it within China.

They've started showing these clips on the news of the unrest in Lhasa, this very, very violent unrest, and they've shown clips of Tibetans knocking over police cars and throwing stones and behaving in a very violent manner, and also monks behaving in a violent manner, and it seems to be that the Chinese government is trying to build up support inside China for their actions.

SHAPIRO: Is there an end-game in sight?

LIM: Well, I mean the Chinese government - obviously what they would like to do is just try and resolve this as soon as possible and try and hush everything up. So to stop news of what's happening from coming out into the outside world, and that's why they've closed the borders of Tibet. They're stopping people from entering the Gannan region, and they are also tightening up Internet controls within China.

So I mean, I think for them, they just want to try and resolve this as quickly as possible, but of course, the international outcry is building, and they'll find it very, very difficult to tread a line between the sort of repression that's going on inside and the calls for restraints outside.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Louisa Lim in China, near the border of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Thanks, Louisa.

LIM: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And we were joined earlier from inside Tibet by James Miles with the Economist magazine.

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