China accused the Dalai Lama on Sunday of orchestrating the recent anti-government riots in Tibet in a bid to mar the Beijing Olympics and overthrow the area's communist leaders.
The accusations came as Tibetan areas were swarming with troops and closed to scrutiny from the outside world. With foreign media banned, information barely trickled out of the Tibetan capital Lhasa and other far-flung communities.
The Chinese government was attempting to fill the information vacuum with its own message, saying through official media that formerly restive areas were under control. It again accused the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, of trying to harm China's image ahead of the summer games.
"The evil motive of the Dalai clique is to stir up troubles at a sensitive time and deliberately make it bigger and even cause bloodshed so as to damage the Beijing Olympics," said the state-run Tibet Daily, calling it "a life-and-death struggle between ourselves and the enemy."
The attack on the Dalai Lama — who advocates nonviolence and denies being behind the March 14 riots in Lhasa — is an attempt to further demonize him in the eyes of the Chinese public, which is strongly supportive of the Olympics.
"The Dalai clique is scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage to force the Chinese government to make concessions to Tibet independence," said the People's Daily, the main mouthpiece of the Communist Party.
Dalai Lama supports Olympics
On Sunday, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader called the accusation "baseless," asserting he has supported China's hosting of the summer Games.
"I always support (that) the Olympics should ... take place in Beijing ... so that more than 1 billion human beings, that means Chinese, they feel proud of it," said the Dalai Lama on the sidelines of a Buddhist prayer session in New Delhi.
The official lighting of the Olympic flame is set for Monday in Greece, and some 1,000 police will surround Ancient Olympia to keep away pro-Tibetan protesters from the ceremony. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is scheduled to attend.
Some fear the arrival of the Olympic torch — scheduled to travel through 20 countries before the Beijing Olympics open on Aug. 8 — could spark violent protests against China.
The torch relay is already becoming politicized, as one of Thailand's torchbearers withdrew Sunday to protest China's recent crackdown in Tibet.
Narisa Chakrabongse — one of the country's six torchbearers — said in an open letter that she decided against taking part in the relay to "send a strong message to China that the world community could not accept its actions." Narisa wrote, "The slaying of the Tibetans ... is an outright violation of human rights."
Death toll rises
China raised its death toll from the Lhasa protests by six to 22, with its official Xinhua News Agency reporting Saturday the charred remains of an 8-month-old boy and four adults were pulled from a garage burned down in Lhasa last Sunday — two days after the city erupted in anti-Chinese rioting. The Dalai Lama's exiled government said 99 Tibetans have been killed — 80 in Lhasa, 19 in Gansu province.
The violence has become a public relations disaster for China ahead of the August Olympics, which it has been hoping to use to bolster its international image.
Xinhua also published a commentary attacking U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, a fierce critic of China who on Friday lent her support to the Tibetan cause on a visit to the Dalai Lama at his headquarters in India, calling China's crackdown "a challenge to the conscience of the world."
Xinhua accused Pelosi of ignoring the violence caused by the Tibetan rioters. "'Human rights police' like Pelosi are habitually bad tempered and ungenerous when it comes to China, refusing to check their facts and find out the truth of the case," it said.
The government has sought to portray itself and Chinese businesses as the victims in the protests.
Xinhua said Sunday that 94 people had been injured in four counties and one city in Gansu province in riots on March 15-16.
'I saw hundreds of soldiers'
Despite the media restrictions, some information was leaking out on troop movements.
One American backpacker who traveled to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, said he had seen soldiers or paramilitary troops in Deqen in northwest Yunnan province, which borders Tibet.
"What was an empty parking lot by the library was full of military trucks and people practicing with shields. I saw hundreds of soldiers," said the witness, who would give only his first name Ralpha.
There have been no reported protests in Yunnan.
Xinhua issued several reports Sunday saying in addition to Gansu province, life was returning to normal in other areas where protests took place in the wake of the Lhasa riots.
"More than half of the shops on major streets were seen reopened for business" in Aba, the center of northern Aba county in Sichuan province, Xinhua said. It quoted local Communist Party chief Kang Qingwei as saying government departments and major enterprises were "running normally" and schools would reopen on Monday.
Aba is where Xinhua has said police shot and wounded four rioters in self-defense. It was the first time the government acknowledged shooting any protesters.
Though the European Union and the United States have so far said they opposed boycotting the Beijing games over the crackdown, an EU politician said in remarks published Saturday that European countries should not rule out threatening a boycott if violence continues.