- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2008

BEIJING (AP) — Fresh protests broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa yesterday as foreign diplomats wrapped up a tightly controlled visit organized by Beijing, a radio broadcaster and Tibetan activists reported.

A protest began in the afternoon at Lhasa’s Ramoche monastery and grew to involve “many people,” said Kate Saunders of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.

Citing unnamed witnesses in the city, Ms. Saunders said the situation calmed down after a few hours. She had no information on injuries or arrests.

People also protested at the Jokhang Temple, a major Buddhist site in Lhasa, the government-in-exile of the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, said on its Web site. The India-based government gave no other details.

Several hundred people took part in the protests, the U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported.

The Ramoche and Jokhang monasteries and other sites were sealed off by security forces, Ms. Saunders said.

Ramoche was the original site of protests that spread earlier this month and led to a crackdown by the Chinese government.

The reports of new protests came as a 15-member group of diplomats from the United States, Japan and Europe returned to Beijing after a two-day visit to Lhasa.

The diplomats’ plane left Lhasa at about 1 p.m., according to the U.S. Embassy, an hour before the reported start of the protest at the Ramoche monastery.

Beijing is trying to enforce calm in Tibet and buttress its claim that the most violent anti-Chinese protests since 1989 were incited by forces linked to the Dalai Lama.

Diplomats toured damaged areas of Lhasa and met people selected by Chinese authorities, who accompanied them at all times, the U.S. Embassy said.

“The delegation was not permitted to move about independently in Lhasa, and was unable to hold unsupervised conversations with local residents,” the embassy said.

After the March 14 violence in Lhasa, protests spread across ethnic Tibetan areas in neighboring provinces in the most widespread challenge to communist rule since 1989.

Beijing says 22 people were killed in Lhasa, while Tibetan exiles put the overall death toll at 140. Yesterday, the Chinese government said it would pay compensation for people killed in the rioting, give the injured free medical care and help repair damaged homes and businesses.

The unrest was a public relations disaster for communist leaders, who want to use the Beijing Olympics to showcase China as a prosperous, stable society.

A group of foreign reporters was taken on a similar trip to Lhasa last week, but their effort had backfired when 30 monks burst into a briefing room shouting there was no religious freedom in Tibet.

European Union foreign ministers expressed “strong concern” yesterday about violence in Tibet, but dodged the issue of China’s role in the unrest.

The ministers said after a two-day meeting in Slovenia, that they “will continue to pay close attention to the human rights situation in China,” but they had declined to mention the Olympic Games or link China directly to the crackdown.

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