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Originally published Monday, January 23, 2012 at 7:25 AM

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China: Overseas groups distort truth about unrest

China on Tuesday accused overseas advocacy groups of twisting the truth about unrest in a politically sensitive Tibetan region in order to undermine the government.

Associated Press

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BEIJING —

China on Tuesday accused overseas advocacy groups of twisting the truth about unrest in a politically sensitive Tibetan region in order to undermine the government.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said order has been restored in Luhuo county in southwestern China after a clash Monday between police and Tibetans that left one Tibetan dead and four others injured.

Five police were also injured in the clash, Hong said. He called the Tibetans involved in the violence in Sichuan province's Ganzi prefecture a "mob" and said authorities will act firmly to fight crime and maintain order.

"Overseas forces of 'Tibet independence' have always fabricated rumors and distorted the truth to discredit the Chinese government with issues involving Tibet," Hong said in remarks carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The unrest comes amid high tensions following the self-immolations of at least 16 Buddhist monks, nuns and other Tibetans in the past year. Most have chanted for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Ganzi is a rugged, deeply Buddhist region filled with monasteries that has been at the center of dissent for years. It is among the traditionally Tibetan areas of Sichuan province and other parts of western China that have been closed to outsiders for months amid a massive security presence.

Tibet activist groups and witnesses said police opened fire on protesters in Monday's violence in Luhuo. The London-based International Campaign for Tibet said three Tibetans were killed and nine wounded, while another group, Free Tibet, said one died and up to 30 others were shot and wounded in Luhuo, also known as Draggo in Tibetan.

A Tibetan monk from Shouling monastery in Luhuo said in a phone interview that police fired at about 10,000 protesters, killing one Tibetan farmer and injuring 32.

"The protesters just want peace and religious freedom," said the monk who would not give his name out of fear of government retaliation. He said the demonstrators were mostly local Tibetan residents plus a few monks and Han Chinese residents.

"Today it is quiet here, but we can see police patrolling around the government offices and the monasteries," he said.

Tuesday was a holiday for the Lunar New Year and calls to the local government and Communist Party offices rang unanswered.

Xinhua said more than 100 people, including monks, gathered to attack a police station after hearing rumors that three monks would set themselves on fire.

It said some were armed with knives and hurled stones as they smashed two police vehicles and two fire engines and stormed nearby shops.

In a sign of the government's sensitivity over the unrest, state-controlled domestic media did not report it. Hong's remarks were carried only by Xinhua's English-language service and were not posted on the Foreign Ministry's website.

Many Tibetans resent Beijing's heavy-handed rule and the large-scale migration of China's ethnic Han majority to the Himalayan region. While China claims Tibet has been under its rule for centuries, many Tibetans say the region was functionally independent for most of that time.

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Gillian Wong can be reached on http://twitter.com/gillianwong

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