- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2008

BEIJING (AP) — The communist government’s leading newspaper yesterday issued a call to “resolutely crush” Tibetan demonstrations against Chinese rule.

The statement came as international criticism against the crackdown on Tibetan protesters swelled.

A senior EU official said European countries should not rule out threatening China with an Olympic boycott if violence continues in Tibet. Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also joined the growing chorus of critics.

Fighting back against the criticism, Beijing has begun releasing tallies of statements of support from foreign governments and trying to get its version of events before the international community.

“It is a clear proof that the international community is on the side of China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, which reported that 100 governments had endorsed China’s handling of the protests.

China’s government has portrayed the protests as having been instigated by supporters of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

“We must see through the secessionist forces’ evil intentions, uphold the banner of maintaining social stability … and resolutely crush the ‘Tibet independence’ forces’ conspiracy,” the People’s Daily said in an editorial.

The protests, which started in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on the March 10 anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, turned violent four days later and touched off demonstrations among Tibetans in three other provinces.

The protests have threatened Beijing’s attempts to project an image of unity and prosperity ahead of the Beijing Summer Olympics in August.

Beijing has responded by smothering Tibetan areas with troops and publishing a “Most Wanted” list of 21 protesters, appealing to people to turn them in.

Beijing’s official death toll from last week’s rioting in Lhasa rose to 22, with Xinhua reporting five more civilians and a police officer died. The Tibetan government-in-exile has said 99 Tibetans have been killed — 80 in Lhasa and 19 in Gansu province.

In Lhasa, shops reopened yesterday but the police presence was heavy, said residents reached by phone. The Potala Palace, the traditional seat of Tibetan rulers, and the Jokhang Temple, a popular site for tourists and Buddhist pilgrims, were still closed.

The White House said Thursday the crackdown is not cause for President Bush to cancel his attendance at the Olympics. But it requested access to the region to see how Chinese police were dealing with detained protesters.

The president of the European Parliament said in remarks released yesterday that European countries should not rule out threatening China with an Olympic boycott if violence continues in Tibet.

“Beijing must decide itself; it should immediately negotiate with the Dalai Lama,” Hans-Gert Poettering was quoted as saying by Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “If there continue to be no signals of compromise, I see boycott measures as justified.”

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