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Protests Against China, Violence Continue in Tibet

March 18, 2008 at 6:30 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Next, China’s crackdown in Tibet. We have an update from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News. She reports from Beijing.

LINDSEY HILSUM, ITV News correspondent: Traditional Tibetan Buddhist greetings for those the Chinese authorities see as the saviors of the hour. Tibetan television tonight showed the soldiers and riot police who put down the protests.

Lhasa appears to be effectively under martial law. The government won’t admit that, but eyewitnesses say that soldiers rule the streets. They’re clearing up both the debris and those accused of instigating violence.

Tibet’s civilian leadership is trying to bring things back to normal.

DUO JIZEREM, deputy mayor of Tibet (through translator): Our next step is to prepare enough materials to provide for the people. Because Tibet is in an unusual period now, we should make sure goods are enough and residents can live a calm life. The other step is to take determined methods to capture the primary suspects.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Today in Beijing, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao blamed it all on the old enemy, the Dalai Lama.

WEN JIABAO, premier of China (through translator): We have ample facts and plenty of evidence that the incident was organized, masterminded and incited by the Dalai Lama clique. The protesters want to incite a sabotage on the Olympics in order to achieve their unspeakable goal.

Placing blame

LINDSEY HILSUM: In Dar es Salaam, the Dalai Lama denied Prime Minister Wen's allegations and said if the violence got out of hand, he would step down as political leader-in-exile.

DALAI LAMA: ... China's prime minister accused me all these things I started. Absolutely not. If prime minister come here and investigate thoroughly all our files, all record my speech, the prime minister will know. That prime minister knows how much this started by local officials.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Outside of Beijing courtroom today, police and supporters of another man the Chinese authorities regard as a troublemaker. Hu Jia, seen here before his arrest, is a dissident blogger who went on trial today for incitement to subvert the state.

In recent years, China's managed to divert attention away from its human rights record and onto its successful economy. But add the trial of this prominent dissident blogger to the unrest in Tibet and you've got exactly the kind of international publicity and pressure that the government doesn't want five months before the Olympics.

ZHOU LI (through translator): We don't know what's really happening in Tibet. The right to know is taken away from us, and we're attacked if we dare to speak.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Today, monks in Gansu province were performing their traditional rituals. They said they were praying for leniency from the Chinese government as it reasserts control over the region.