NOAH ADAMS, host:
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the Dalai Lama today. She called the crisis in Tibet a challenge to the conscience of the world. Beijing is grappling with the most serious anti-Chinese unrest in Tibetan areas in half a century. It has responded with an overwhelming show of force, but news about those protests is hard to get or to confirm.
NPR's Louisa Lim has been talking to some of the few foreigners who've managed to witness the unrest and its aftermath.
LOUISA LIM: Today, authorities issued pictures of the 21 most wanted men in connection with last week's violent riots in Lhasa. China says 16 people died in the rioting, while Tibetan exile groups say 99 people have been killed so far.
In Lhasa, intrusive house-to-house searches have been taking place, according to Georg Blume, a German reporter from Die Zeit and one of the last two Western journalists to be expelled from Tibet yesterday.
Mr. GEORG BLUME (Journalist, Die Zeit): We saw police moving around and checking on people. I think all the young Tibetans in Lhasa are very afraid. They said to us that they need to prove that they didn't take part in those demonstrations, otherwise they risk arrest.
LIM: The unrest came after five days of peaceful protests and triggered a wave of angry anti-Chinese demonstrations elsewhere. Georg Blume says he saw huge numbers of security forces deployed in the capital, sealing off the major monasteries in and around Lhasa.
Mr. BLUME: We saw a very big military convoy on Sunday, where we could easily count a few thousand, if not 6,000 military personnel moving from inside the city outside to the area of the monasteries. So, there were thousands and thousands of these military police in Lhasa at one point.
Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
LIM: Look, they're all paramilitary police, says the voice, as the cavalcade of green trucks lumbered past. This footage comes from a trip by McClatchy journalist, Tim Johnson, and another fellow reporter to Sichuan province which borders Tibet. They saw three separate large convoys of security forces. Here, he describes one.
Mr. TIM JOHNSON (Journalist, McClatchy): They would go along in convoys of, say, 25 or 30 vehicles. And each convoy would generally have a mobile ambulance, some sort of paddy wagon, armored vehicles for what looked like riot-control purposes, troop carriers. It looked like a whole sort of field expedition to deal with, you know, something where they would have to stay out for a long time and deal with injuries, and arrests and that sort of thing.
LIM: That massive mobilization is flooding other provinces neighboring Tibet, too. An eyewitness in Gansu province today says, he saw a convoy of around 3,000 troops. Villagers had been sealed off, he said, and soldiers armed with AK-47s were sitting by the roadside. And Tim Johnson describes a situation of near martial law in Litang, in Sichuan province.
Mr. JOHNSON: The control was absolute. If authorities come in and shut every store in a municipality and tell people to park their cars and walk everywhere so they can't work and can't sort of get transport around the city, it's pretty close to, you know, martial law.
LIM: China says the unrest was instigated by the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama. It's a claim he denies. And today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for an international investigation to clear the Dalai Lama's name. As she met him in the Indian town of Dharamsala, she said the world's conscience is now on trial.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives): That if freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world.
(Soundbite of applause)
LIM: The question now for the rest of the world is how to respond. In this Olympic year, China had been looking forward to presenting its success story on the international stage. Instead, it's locking down the "Roof of the World," creating a new militarized zone. With its image in tatters, Beijing is now desperate to prevent any more outside eyewitnesses from chronicling either Tibetan discontent or Chinese suppression.
Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.