- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

China yesterday scrambled to contain the global fallout from days of bloody clashes in Tibet, as protests around the globe put the spotlight on Beijing’s human rights record just months before it hosts the Olympic Games.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the European Union all urged China to show “restraint” after days of rioting in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and neighboring provinces that left more than a dozen dead and scores injured.

A midnight deadline set by Beijing for protesters to turn themselves in passed yesterday with no evidence of mass surrenders or arrests, the Associated Press reported.

There appeared to be little official support for a boycott of the Summer Games, even as scores of pro-Tibetan activists planned a protest today outside the Swiss headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The demonstrators have vowed to block plans for the Olympic torch to pass through Tibet on its way to Beijing.

“Taking the torch into Tibet would not only be wrong, it would be dangerous,” Kelsang Gope, head of Tibet’s unofficial olympic committee, told the Reuters news agency.

IOC President Jacques Rogge yesterday said he saw no sign that the unrest in Tibet had jeopardized the Olympic Games.

“There have been absolutely no calls for a boycott,” he told reporters on a visit to Trinidad.

“We have been very heartened by the position of the European Union and the major governments of the world who have all said almost unanimously that boycotts will not be a solution,” he said.

Pat Hickey, president of the IOC’s European Olympic Committee, told a press conference in Slovenia yesterday, “Boycotts have never worked, [and] the only people who are punished are athletes.”

China, which has blamed the riots on the Dalai Lama, the exiled Buddhist spiritual leader of Tibet, successfully blocked action in the U.N. Security Council on the Tibet crisis and attacked Tibetan activists calling for a global boycott of the August Olympics.

“I think they made the wrong calculation of their situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a hastily called Beijing press briefing.

U.S. officials have issued muted protests over the violence and have rejected so far any talk of a boycott.

Miss Rice, in Moscow for talks with top Russian officials, told reporters, “There’s been a kind of missed opportunity for the Chinese to engage the Dalai Lama.”

State Department spokesman Tom Casey noted that the Bush administration has consistently criticized Beijing’s human rights abuses, but said of the Tibet clashes, “This is an issue that is of long standing in China, and it’s one that’s going to have to be resolved internally between the parties.”

Exiled Tibetans said security forces had been rounding up political dissidents, and witnesses said there was a heavy police presence on the streets of Lhasa, which was described as tense but quiet yesterday.

In its most extensive statement to date on the violence, the Chinese government accused a “handful of unlawful elements” in Lhasa of instigating the latest violence, which came as Tibetans marked the 49th anniversary of a crackdown on a failed uprising against Chinese rule that forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India.

The statement blamed the Dalai Lama and Tibetan “separatists” for instigating the violence, which the government said had left 13 “innocent civilians” dead.

“We hope the international community will recognize the fact that the Dalai clique instigated and plotted the incidents in Lhasa and other places with the intention to separate China and undermine the Olympic Games,” the government said.

Protesters and exile pro-Tibetan groups said that the unrest has spread to other cities with large Tibetan populations in western China and that the death toll could be as high as 80.

Anti-Chinese demonstrations have been held at Chinese embassies and diplomatic missions in the United States, Britain, Germany, Nepal and other countries.

Intended by Beijing as a showcase for China’s modernization and development, the Summer Games have given the regime’s critics a lever to move international opinion, even before protests erupted in Lhasa last week.

Activists have slammed China on issues ranging from its record on civil liberties to its close ties to Sudan and other repressive regimes.

Mark Malloch-Brown, Britain’s minister for Asian affairs, told BBC Television, “This is a China engaged with the world which is using the Olympics to demonstrate a new openness, and it risks all of that collapsing in on it if it is seen as being the enforcer of a crackdown on Tibetans.”

But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Bush, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and other Western leaders have all said they plan to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Over the weekend, the Dalai Lama, from his exile base in India, called for an international inquiry into China’s “rule of terror” and “cultural genocide.”

But to the frustration of some Tibetan exile groups, the Nobel Peace laureate has opposed an Olympic boycott.

“China deserves to be a host of the Olympic Games,” he told reporters.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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