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China says order restored in heavily Tibetan areas

Region to reopen to foreign tourist traffic on May 1

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jill Drew
Washington Post / April 4, 2008

BEIJING - Chinese officials said yesterday that they have succeeded in restoring order in heavily Tibetan areas across western China and are moving quickly to arrest monks and others involved in weeks of widespread antigovernment protests.

The Tibet Tourism Bureau announced that the region will reopen to foreign tourists May 1. Police have arrested more than 800 people, and 280 more have surrendered in Lhasa alone, the Tibetan capital that was the site of a deadly March 14 riot, an official there said. Those arrested will be tried by the end of the month on charges related to the riot, according to an account on the Lhasa's official tourism website.

Protests spilled beyond Lhasa over the past few weeks and were reported in more than 42 areas in surrounding provinces with large Tibetan and other minority populations.

The mass arrests announced yesterday extend across the region, although total figures of those detained are not known. Exile groups say the manhunt, a stepped-up police presence and harsh tactics are provoking fear and further unrest, but Chinese officials say they are acting within the law and fulfilling their duty to restore social stability.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday appealed for unity and pledged more support for poor minority areas during a tour of Yunnan province, China's most diverse.

"All ethnic groups form one big family," Wen said, according to the official New China News Agency. "We must be united and help each other, to prosper and make progress together."

As host to the Olympic games in August, China is eager to project an image of harmony and stability.

To that end, it has taken a law-and-order attitude to rooting out organizers of the protests, insisting they are part of an organized "clique" of separatists led by Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and not a sign that China's policies toward minorities are failing.

The Dalai Lama has denied any involvement in the protests and has pointed to China's repression of dissent and religious practice as root causes of the protests.

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