02/20/2009, 00.00
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Tibetans ask Clinton for pressure on Beijing to prevent massacre

There is serious concern about the harsh repression taking place, with persecution of any form of dissent, and sentences to years in prison. Pro-Tibet groups are appealing to Clinton to intervene with government of China, where she is visiting today, and to push for a change in policy.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Four more Tibetans of the county of Kardze have been given long prison sentences. According to pro-Tibet groups, there are still hundreds of Tibetans in prison over the protests in 2008. The groups are appealing to U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to intervene with the Chinese government, and prevent a possible imminent massacre.

Yesterday, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy revealed that two nuns of a group of 55 arrested during the protests in the county of of Kardze on May 14, 2008, have been sentenced to between 9 and 10 years in prison. Also sentenced to three years each for the protests in March of 2008 are 18-year-old Dorjee Tashi and Ngawang Tashi.

Yesterday, pro-Tibet groups asked Clinton, who will be in Beijing this evening, to push for an end to the military repression in the region.

Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), observes that "Secretary Clinton arrives in China as the Chinese government is dramatically escalating its aggression against the Tibetan people. Clinton and many American leaders have made strong statements in support of Tibet, and it is time they matched their words with action by prioritizing a negotiated resolution between China and the Dalai Lama as an integral part of US-China relations."

In recent days, the Chinese authorities have banned foreigners from entering Tibet and the surrounding Tibetan enclaves, and have significantly stepped up the military presence there.

In the county of Lithang (Sichuan) on February 15 and 16, many Tibetans took to the streets to call for the return of the Dalai Lama, and for a boycott of the Tibetan New Year, which falls on February 25, in protest against the Chinese repression. The soldiers beat demonstrators with clubs and arrested at least 24 people, and the authorities ordered the closing of shops and hotels beginning on February 17. The police patrolled the streets, arresting anyone with bloodstained clothing or other signs of having participated in the protests.

Kate Woznow, the leader of the SFT, warns that "Chinese forces are setting the stage for the bloody suppression of Tibetans to take place out of sight of independent eye-witnesses by barring foreigners from Tibet and making it impossible for reporters to access the area." March will mark the 50th anniversary of the exile of the Dalai Lama, and the bloody repression of the protests in 2008. "We are gravely concerned that in the coming weeks more Tibetans will be arrested and possibly killed," Woznow continues, "and we call on Secretary Clinton to unequivocally convey to the Chinese leadership that its hard-line policies must end."

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