China to Relay Torch in Tibet; Rejects Pleas for Mediation

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Byline: Jason Motlagh, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

DHARAMSALA, India - China vowed yesterday to bring the Olympic torch through the heart of Tibet en route to the Summer Games in Beijing, again defying calls for dialogue by Tibetan exiles, the United States and much of the world.

"The more determined the Dalai [Lama] clique is to ruin the torch relay and the Olympic Games, the more hard and good work we need to do on the preparation and the implementation of all aspects," Yin Xunping, a Communist Party official, was quoted as saying by the Tibet Daily newspaper.

The report was cited yesterday by the official Xinhua News Agency, while three protesters in Greece's ancient Olympia attempted to disrupt the torch-lighting ceremony by seizing Chinese organizer Liu Qi's microphone.

They were quickly arrested, as were other demonstrators who tried to stop the torch relay as it began a global journey that is to end with the Aug. 8 lighting of the Olympic flame.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told the Associated Press he is engaged in "silent diplomacy" with China on Tibet and other human rights issues in advance of the Olympics.

"Awarding the games to China has put China in the limelight and opened the [human rights] issues up to the world. Tibet, rightfully so, is on the front page. But it would not be on the front page if the games were not being organized in China.

"I believe the games have advanced the agenda of human rights," Mr. Rogge told the AP prior to the torch ceremony in Greece. "Is the situation perfect? By no means. Has it improved? I'm saying yes. Is the glass half full, or half empty? I'm saying half full."

"We believe the games will be a catalyst for change and will open a country which used to be mysterious to much of the world," he said.

In Dharamsala, the prime minister of Tibet's government in exile said they confirmed the death of at least 130 Tibetans in China's crackdown.

Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche told Agence France-Presse that the total, up from 99 confirmed deaths last week, might not reflect new fatalities but the arrival of fresh information.

"We are afraid the number could go up when we get more information from remote areas," he said.

New clashes between Tibetans and Chinese authorities were reported in Sichuan province yesterday. Chinese state media said the fighting left one policeman dead and several others injured.

The unrest began with protests in Lhasa, Tibet, two weeks ago and turned violent four days later. It later spread to nearby provinces with ethnic Tibetan populations.

State news agencies have tried to portray the government and ethnic Chinese as victims, claiming that Tibetan rioters are responsible for the deaths of at least 18 civilians and one police officer.

Beijing has also accused the Dalai Lama, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, of stirring the unrest to hold "hostage" the Olympic Games. …