04/03/2008, 00.00
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Witnesses confirm: Chinese soldiers "dressed as monks" sparked the violence

by Nirmala Carvalho
A Tibetan leader defends the choice of non-violence, and claims that Chinese soldiers dressed as monks in order to instigate violence. "We are not terrorists", he says, expressing the view that "Chinese propaganda" is behind attacks meant to justify accusations against the Tibetans. In Lhasa, the army is also harassing the Chinese.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - "It is absurd to say that there are 'Tibetan suicide squads' prepared to carry out attacks against the Olympics.  It is another attempt by China to pass us off as extremists and terrorists" and to justify violent repression. Tsering Choedup, south Asia coordinator of the International Tibet Support Network, speaks to AsiaNews of the many anti-Tibetan lies that Chinese propaganda is spreading around the world.

Wu Heping, spokesman of the Chinese public safety ministry, has accused the Tibetans of "organising suicide squads to carry out violent attacks.  They say they are not afraid of blood or sacrifice".

Choedup replies that "this is an accusation created by Chinese propaganda, entirely baseless and absurd".  "The Tibetan emphasis on non-violence is well known.  Tibetan exiles are 100 percent followers of nonviolence".  "Chinese propaganda has been following this strategy since the first peaceful march, on March 10 . . . Since then, they have been accusing us of acts of violence that have nothing to do with [our] peaceful protests.  Since March 10, they have brazenly described the Tibetans as violent and destructive, and are now speaking to the world of 'Tibetan terrorism'".

On the violence by monks in Lhasa against ethnic Chinese and Muslim citizens, denounced by Beijing during the first days of the protests, the Dalai Lama said, "in a photograph, we see a lama holding a sword, but it is not a traditional Tibetan sword. We know that a few hundred soldiers have dressed as monks".

Choedup says that "it is not only a matter of a photo, eyewitnesses living in Lhasa have confirmed this for us.  Through cell phones given to them by relatives here in India, they have confirmed for us that they have seen Chinese soldiers and security agents changing into monks' robes, and inciting the crowd".  "After the accusations of Wu Heping, we are afraid that Chinese might dress as Tibetans and carry out attacks".

It is also not true that the army must stay in Lhasa to protect the ethnic Chinese.  On the contrary, "our contacts in Lhasa say that the Han Chinese and the Hui Muslims are increasingly dissatisfied with Beijing's actions".  "They, too, are victims of the increasing military repression and the massive presence of soldiers in the streets.  The authorities have not struck only the Tibetans, but are going from door to door, and have sealed the entire area".

The Olympic torch will be in New Delhi on April 17, and the Indian foreign minister has said that he does not want actions that might "compromise" relations between India and China.

"We are revising our protest plans", Choedup confirms, "we absolutely do not want to harm the Indian government, our objective is Beijing alone.  Now our campaign is 'Speak Out For Tibet'.  We are asking the torch bearers to wear something that symbolises Tibet. Bollywood star Aamir Khan has said that he would like to carry the torch 'with a prayer in [his] heart' for the people of Tibet.  We are asking him to at least wear a headband, or even a T-shirt or anything that symbolises Tibet".  "We are also asking the world powers to boycott the opening ceremony".

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