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New Tibet protests reportedly break out

Fresh protests broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on Saturday as foreign diplomats wrapped up a tightly controlled visit organized by Beijing, a radio broadcaster and Tibetan activists reported.
Nepal Tibet
Tibetan nuns chant prayer hymns as they pray for the souls of those who died during protests in China as well as to urge the Chinese government to resist from using force against Tibetan protesters, in Katmandu, Nepal, on Saturday. Saurabh Das / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

New protests broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on Saturday as foreign diplomats wrapped up a tightly controlled visit organized by Beijing, a radio broadcaster and Tibetan activists reported.

A protest began Saturday 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, 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, 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 descriptions of new protests could not be independently confirmed and China issued no immediate response.

An American Embassy spokeswoman said she had no information on any protests. A Japanese diplomat, Mitsuhiro Wada, said, "No," when asked at the Beijing airport whether he saw any protests.

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.

Delegation tour restricted
Diplomats toured damaged areas of Lhasa and met people selected by Chinese authorities, who accompanied them at all times, the American Embassy said in a brief statement.

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

The statement gave no other details but repeated Washington's appeal to China to show restraint.

The British Embassy and the European Union mission in Beijing had no immediate comment.

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.

Violence, unrest
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 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.

On Saturday, 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.

Families of 18 civilians killed will each receive $28,500, the Xinhua News Agency said, citing an announcement by the Tibet regional government.

Xinhua gave no indication whether there would be compensation for four other official deaths — one police officer and three people who the government says were fleeing arrest.

The government says 382 civilians and 241 police officers also were hurt.

The protests, led by monks, began peacefully March 10, on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Tibet had been effectively independent for decades before Chinese communist troops entered in 1950.

On Saturday, the Dalai Lama accused Beijing of "demographic aggression" by encouraging settlers from China's ethnic Han majority to move to the sparsely Tibetan populated region.

He said the number of settlers in Tibet was expected to increase by more than 1 million following the Olympics, but did not say where he obtained such information.

"There is evidence the Chinese people in Tibet are increasing month by month," the Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters in New Delhi.

Lhasa has 100,000 Tibetans and twice as many outsiders, most from the Han majority, the Dalai Lama said.

European Union foreign ministers expressed "strong concern" Saturday about violence in Tibet, but skated around 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 did not mention the Aug. 8-24 games or link China directly to the crackdown.