- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

DHARAMSALA, IndiaChina vowed yesterday to bring the Olympic torch through the heart of Tibet en route to the Summer Games in Beijing, again defying calls for dialogue by Tibetan exiles, the United States and much of the world.

“The more determined the Dalai [Lama] clique is to ruin the torch relay and the Olympic Games, the more hard and good work we need to do on the preparation and the implementation of all aspects,” Yin Xunping, a Communist Party official, was quoted as saying by the Tibet Daily newspaper.

The report was cited yesterday by the official Xinhua News Agency, while three protesters in Greece’s ancient Olympia attempted to disrupt the torch-lighting ceremony by seizing Chinese organizer Liu Qi’s microphone.

They were quickly arrested, as were other demonstrators who tried to stop the torch relay as it began a global journey that is to end with the Aug. 8 lighting of the Olympic flame.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told the Associated Press he is engaged in “silent diplomacy” with China on Tibet and other human rights issues in advance of the Olympics.

“Awarding the games to China has put China in the limelight and opened the [human rights] issues up to the world. Tibet, rightfully so, is on the front page. But it would not be on the front page if the games were not being organized in China.

“I believe the games have advanced the agenda of human rights,” Mr. Rogge told the AP prior to the torch ceremony in Greece. “Is the situation perfect? By no means. Has it improved? I’m saying yes. Is the glass half full, or half empty? I’m saying half full.”

“We believe the games will be a catalyst for change and will open a country which used to be mysterious to much of the world,” he said.

In Dharamsala, the prime minister of Tibet’s government in exile said they confirmed the death of at least 130 Tibetans in China’s crackdown.

Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche told Agence France-Presse that the total, up from 99 confirmed deaths last week, might not reflect new fatalities but the arrival of fresh information.

“We are afraid the number could go up when we get more information from remote areas,” he said.

New clashes between Tibetans and Chinese authorities were reported in Sichuan province yesterday. Chinese state media said the fighting left one policeman dead and several others injured.

The unrest began with protests in Lhasa, Tibet, two weeks ago and turned violent four days later. It later spread to nearby provinces with ethnic Tibetan populations.

State news agencies have tried to portray the government and ethnic Chinese as victims, claiming that Tibetan rioters are responsible for the deaths of at least 18 civilians and one police officer.

Beijing has also accused the Dalai Lama, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, of stirring the unrest to hold “hostage” the Olympic Games.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Sunday, the Dalai Lama said: “I have always supported that the Olympic Games should take place in China.” The 72-year-old spiritual leader has called for talks with China to negotiate autonomy for Tibet instead of full independence.

Through the Xinhua news agency, China said yesterday:

“The political monk’s statement of supporting the Beijing Olympic Games has been proven a lie; his followers boycotted the torch relay and resorted to violence in Lhasa and elsewhere.”

The flame is slated to pass over Mount Everest in early May, and on through Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, the following month.

Human rights and Tibetan activists proposed an international boycott of the global sporting event. But governments have avoided such calls.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday urged the Chinese government to pursue a more “sustainable” policy toward Tibet and to talk to the Dalai Lama.

“We are going to continue to encourage that dialogue because ultimately that is going to be the only policy that is sustainable in Tibet,” Miss Rice said at a news conference with India’s external affairs minister.

On the streets of Dharamsala, a charged atmosphere reigned.

Local activists have plastered grisly posters of purported victims of Chinese brutality. Some appear to have been beaten to death, while others show fatal bullet wounds to the chest and head.

“The Chinese government says things have calmed down, but we know it is very volatile in Tibet right now,” said Chukora Aglof, a researcher at the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Saffron-robed monks waving Tibetan flags continue to march throughout the day, chanting slogans into loudspeakers: “Stop killing Tibetans” and “Long live the Dalai Lama.”

A short walk from the spiritual leader’s residence, dozens of Tibetan students and nuns remained on a hunger strike.

“If the Chinese don’t stop killing, we won’t stop our hunger strike,” said Jigshe Tsering, a student who fled Tibet four years ago.

Nicholas Kralev contributed to this report from Washington.