China Mounts New Attack On Dalai Lama Following Tibet Protests

Chinese state media accused the Dalai Lama of closing the door on talks over Tibet's future, an apparent response to rising international calls for Beijing to negotiate with Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader.

In a lengthy article, Xinhua News Agency on Sunday cited past actions and statements attributed to the 72-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner that it said contradicted or undermined his calls for negotiations.

"It was the Dalai Lama clique that closed the door of dialogue," Xinhua said, using China's standard term for the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The statement came a day before the arrival in Beijing of the Olympic torch that has become a magnet for Tibetan activists and other groups seeking to use the Beijing Olympic Games in August to draw attention to their cause.

Beijing has imposed a massive military clampdown in Tibet and other areas of China inhabited by Tibetans. But a new protest was reported to have broken out Saturday in Tibet's regional capital, Lhasa, as diplomats wrapped up a visit organized by Beijing in an effort to blunt criticism of its crackdown on the unrest.

China has accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating protests in Lhasa and other heavily Tibetan areas that started peacefully among Buddhist monks, but turned deadly on March 14. Beijing says 22 people were killed in Lhasa, most of them ethnic Han and Muslim Chinese migrants, while Tibetan exiles put the overall death toll at 140.

According to the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, the demonstration began at about 2 p.m. Saturday at Lhasa's Ramoche monastery and lasted several hours. Calls to Ramoche rang unanswered on Sunday and receptionists at hotels in the area said the monastery was closed to the public. Protests also took place at the central Jokhang Temple, the group said, a major Buddhist site in Lhasa.

Several hundred people took part in the protest at the Jokhang, the U.S.-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported. It cited an unidentified witness as saying there were fist fights.

The International Campaign for Tibet said text messages were sent to cell phones in Lhasa yesterday by the Lhasa Municipal Police urging citizens to "obey the law" as security checks were being carried out. This caused "some frightened citizens whose identification (documents) are not clear to run away," the text message said, according to their translation.

Officials with Lhasa's municipal government described the city as calm Sunday and confirmed they were sending text messages to residents telling them not to "believe or pass on rumors of unrest."

A woman who answered the phone at Lhasa government headquarters said the reported protest was merely a rumor.

"You shouldn't believe such things," said the woman, who hung up without giving her name. No new incidents were reported Sunday.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao told Hong Kong media in Laos on Sunday that Lhasa was "basically stable" and that "social order has returned to normal."

Wen reiterated China's position that it was open to talks with the Dalai Lama if he gives up his desire for independence, and acknowledges that Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable from China.

The Dalai Lama has condemned the violence and urged an independent investigation into the protests, the most serious anti-Chinese unrest in the region since 1989.

Xinhua said in another report Sunday that a suspect in the riots confessed that the security department of the Tibetan government-in-exile asked him to distribute leaflets about the "Tibetan people's uprising movement" to monasteries and society in Lhasa that encouraged the March 14 riots.

Xinhua also said late Saturday that police had found guns and explosives at a Tibetan monastery in Aba county in western Sichuan province, where state media first acknowledged police had fired at protesters March 16, wounding four. Xinhua has said 381 people involved in the protests had surrendered to police and 26 suspects have been caught for alleged involvement.

The police found 30 guns and hundreds of bullets along with explosives and knives at the Geerdeng monastery Friday, Xinhua said. Flags of Tibet's government-in-exile and banners with "Tibet Independence" written on them were also found in monks' rooms, the report said. Police confiscated satellite phones, receivers for overseas TV channels, fax machines and computers, the report said.

Calls to the monastery rang unanswered and officers who answered the phone at police headquarters in Aba county and the surrounding prefecture said they had no information about the reports.

"The monastery has been very quiet these days," said a woman who answered the phone at county police headquarters. None of the officers gave their names as is common among Chinese government officials.

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

A group of foreign reporters was taken on a trip to Lhasa earlier in the week. That effort backfired when about 30 monks burst into a briefing room shouting that there was no religious freedom in Tibet.

Tibet was effectively independent for decades before Chinese communist troops entered in 1950.

The United States and other foreign governments have urged Beijing to talk with the Dalai Lama, who has repeatedly said he would be willing to meet with Chinese officials.

Meanwhile, officials were tightening security for the Olympic torch's Monday arrival in Beijing.

The torch was due to arrive in Beijing aboard an Air China plane and will be displayed at a gala ceremony in Tiananmen Square, the heart of the Chinese capital.