76 sentenced so far over Tibet riots: China report
February 12, 2009, 10:13 am TWN
BEIJING -- China has sentenced 76 people and detained more than 950 since last year's deadly anti-government riots in Tibet, state media said Wednesday.
The government has released few details of the aftermath of the March 14 violence, the largest uprising against Chinese rule in nearly 50 years. Beijing says 22 people died, but Tibetan supporters say many times that number were killed in the protests and subsequent military crackdown.
The report by the official Xinhua News Agency attributed the latest figures to Nyima Tsering, a Tibetan Communist Party official, but did not elaborate on what the sentences were, what charges they faced, or what happened to those detained.
The figures, however, indicate the legal process is ongoing. Authorities said in November that 55 people had been sentenced.
Last month, China launched a security sweep ahead of one of the region's most sensitive events in years — the 50th anniversary in March of a failed uprising that saw the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, flee to exile.
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries and denounces the Dalai Lama as a separatist. Beijing, which maintains a tight grip in the region, has said the March protests were part of a violent campaign by the Nobel Peace laureate and his supporters to overthrow Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama has denied involvement in violence and says he wants only greater autonomy for the remote Himalayan region.
In preparation for the possibility of more unrest, the public security bureau of Lhasa started a "strike hard" campaign against crime, with raids on residential areas, Internet cafes, bars, rented rooms, hotels and guesthouses, state media has reported. At least 50 people have been detained so far, the reports said.
The "strike hard" campaigns are crime crackdowns in which normal arrest and prosecution procedures are usually waived to maximize the number of people detained. Though they normally focus on criminals, people suspected of anti-government activities in places like Tibet and the restive, largely Muslim region of Xinjiang also are targeted.
The efforts also come ahead of Tibetan new year celebrations, which begin Feb. 25.