China vows tough response to Tibet rumour-mongering
Friday, 25 April 2008

REUTERS, BEIJING - Chinese authorities will harshly deal with anyone who spreads rumours which "excite popular feelings" or disturb social harmony in the already restive region of Tibet, the government said on Thursday.

The notice, coming just months before the Beijing Olympics, seems to be aimed at Tibetans who listen to foreign radio broadcasts about the recent demonstrations in their remote mountainous region, skirt China's firewall to access overseas websites or simply exchange news with friends.

"We will severely root out and give no indulgence to people with ulterior motives who spread rumours or excite popular feelings," the Chinese-appointed government in Tibet said in a statement on its website (www.xizang.gov.cn).

Rumours which are "malicious and create serious consequences" will be "strictly dealt with in accordance with rules", it added, without elaborating.

China says that only about 20 people died in the anti-Chinese riots in Tibet, mainly innocent people killed by Tibetan mobs, and accuses the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of instigating and masterminding the unrest.

But the government-in-exile and some human rights groups put the number at possibly over 100 and have said Chinese forces opened fire on demonstrators. Pro-Tibet protests have also dogged the international leg of the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics.

The United States on Wednesday urged China to stop vilifying the Dalai Lama and instead talk to the Dalai Lama.

"The Chinese government should seize the opportunity to talk to those Tibetans, represented by the Dalai Lama, who oppose violence and do not seek independence for Tibet," Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told a U.S. Senate hearing.

China is regularly forced to put out statements denying rumours which circulate on the Internet or by text message claiming, for example, that eating bananas can spread AIDS.

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