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Originally published Sunday, March 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Intellectuals are advocates for Tibetans

A group of 30 Chinese intellectuals appealed to the Chinese government Saturday to admit that its policy of crushing dissent in Tibet and...

The Washington Post

BEIJING — A group of 30 Chinese intellectuals appealed to the Chinese government Saturday to admit that its policy of crushing dissent in Tibet and blaming the ensuing violence on the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was failing.

"The one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation," the group said in an open letter posted on Boxun.com, a Web site for overseas Chinese.

It was the first time a Chinese group had publicly urged the country's leaders to rethink their response to two weeks of deadly protests in Tibetan areas across western China.

Many of 30 people who signed the open letter are regular contributors to Web sites and blogs that provide alternative views of government policies. One other regular contributor, Hu Jia, went on trial last week on charges of incitement to subvert state power. If convicted, he faces five years in prison.

The Chinese government-controlled media, after an initial silence on the protests, has published extensive coverage focusing on a March 14 riot in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet region.

A 15-minute documentary that aired Thursday on state-run television includes footage of marauding gangs of Tibetan rioters beating Chinese and torching motorcycles during the riot; men in monks' robes hurling rocks at police in riot gear, who turn and run; and interviews with injured survivors describing the attacks from their hospital beds. There are no images of the protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in Tibet that began March 10 and were broken up by police.

The official media blame foreign journalists for biased and inaccurate reporting, and the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to prevent foreign journalists from reporting at protest scenes. The government has also blocked access in China to the Web site YouTube.com, where several videos of the violence are posted.

China raised its death toll from the violence in Tibet by five, to 22, with the Xinhua news agency reporting that 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 says 99 Tibetans have been killed, 80 in Lhasa, 19 in Gansu province.

In Chengdu, a sprawling Chinese city at the foot of western China's Tibetan highlands, members of the large Tibetan community complained they could not get calls through to the upland town of Aba where police shot at demonstrators last Sunday.

Shops reopened in Lhasa and a few tourists arrived, nearly a week after most foreigners were told to leave, said residents reached by phone. But paramilitary police kept a heavy presence, "patrolling the streets around the clock," said an employee of the Shambalhaa Hotel.

The Web petition offers 12 suggestions for ways to handle the situation, including allowing independent media access to conflict areas.

The petition asks the government to protect freedom of speech and worship.

It also urges the government to open a new dialogue with the Dalai Lama or otherwise reveal the evidence it has to back up charges that the violence was a plot by him to split Tibet from China.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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