- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - A bomb blast in an unoccupied police station in a Tibetan area in western China has added to tensions during a sensitive month marking the anniversaries of violent anti-government uprisings and the Dalai Lama’s exile to India.

The explosion shattered windows at the newly built station in Bogexi, a town in the predominantly Tibetan Ganzi prefecture, police official Liu Xiaojun said Tuesday.

The building was not yet occupied at the time of the blast early Monday and an investigation was under way, said Liu, who works at the public security bureau in Batang county, which oversees the town. Batang, in Sichuan province’s far west, is about five miles (seven kilometers) from the Tibetan border.

Bombings have previously occurred in Tibetan areas, and Beijing has portrayed them as part of a campaign of violence by the Dalai Lama and his supporters to overthrow Chinese rule, although authorities have provided little evidence to support the allegation.

The state-run China Daily newspaper blamed the blast on “terrorists,” a term Chinese officials have used to characterize followers of the Dalai Lama. The report provided no other details.

Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of anti-government riots in Lhasa, Tibet’s regional capital. Tuesday marked 50 years after the Dalai Lama’s March 17 escape into exile in India after Chinese troops crushed a Tibetan revolt.

The unrest last year in Lhasa was triggered when monks staging a peaceful commemoration of the aborted 1959 uprising were blockaded by police. It spread to three other provinces in western China _ Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai _ and was the most sustained and widespread Tibetan uprising in decades.

China responded by flooding the region with troops, and Tibetan rights groups reported that many monks and nuns were detained or arrested and monasteries were put under tight watch.

The stringent security measures have been in place for much of the year and residents said they were ratcheted up again in recent weeks as Beijing tried to head off trouble ahead of the anniversaries. Chains of checkpoints for vehicles are now in place and police and paramilitary troops have been patrolling in towns.

So far, it appears that major demonstrations have been prevented. Small pockets of protests, however, have been reported by Tibetan rights groups in recent weeks.

Most could not be independently confirmed because communication is spotty in those areas and residents who are reached will not talk for fear of official retaliation.

The London-based Free Tibet group said Tuesday that a Tibetan monk on March 10 threw a pile of leaflets into the air and shouted “Free Tibet!” in Litang, another heavily Tibetan area in Ganzi.

The group said Lobsang Wangchuk, the 29-year-old monk, was quickly taken away by armed police to an unknown location.

A rugged, deeply Buddhist region filled with monasteries and nunneries, Ganzi is known for its strong Tibetan identity and has been at the center of dissent for years. It saw some of the most violent protests last spring.

Although the Dalai Lama has said that Chinese restrictions on Tibet’s religious practices have resulted in a “cultural genocide,” Beijing insists it has bettered the lives of the people by improving the economy and developing the Himalayan region.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday that a Chinese-appointed delegation of Tibetan legislators visiting Washington reiterated that religious freedoms were prevalent in Tibet and that American officials “did not see the full picture.”

Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak, the leader of the five-member delegation, was quoted as saying that Beijing was open to talks with the Dalai Lama “as long as he gives up his separatist activites,” a long-time position of the Chinese leadership. The Dalai Lama has said he seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet, not separation from China.

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