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Tibet Rioters Deadline Passes, Focus on China's Wen

A deadline for Tibetan rioters to hand themselves in passed on Tuesday, but attention switched to China's premier, who was due to address the media after days of violence marring the run-up to Beijing's Olympic Games.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaks at a press conference after the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress, in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Friday March 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
Greg Baker
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaks at a press conference after the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress, in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Friday March 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)

There was no word from Lhasa, Tibet's capital, of any action taken after the midnight deadline for people involved in last week's rioting to surrender to police or face harsher treatment.

Exiled representatives of Tibet in India put the death toll from last Friday's protests against Chinese rule, the most serious in the Himalayan region in nearly two decades, at 80.

But Chinese authorities said on Monday that security forces had exercised restraint in their response to the burning and looting in Lhasa, using only non-lethal weapons, and that only 13 "innocent civilians" had died.

The violence in Lhasa, the culmination of several days of Buddhist monk-led protests, spread over the weekend to neighboring provinces of China with large Tibetan populations.

In Sichuan province, an ethnic Tibetan man said he knew of no fresh outbreaks of unrest since Monday.

"Now they are bringing back stability," he told Reuters by telephone. "There are so many police and People's Armed Police it will be difficult for anything to spread. I'm sure the People's Liberation Army is waiting too. In the background waiting, if the situation really gets out of hand."

Premier's News Conference

Ethnic Tibetan students staged a candle-lit vigil in Beijing on Monday night, saying it was to pray for the dead. It was a small, rare show of defiance in the host city of this year's Olympic Games, where the ruling Communist Party is especially eager to prevent public shows of dissent.

The streets of China's capital were teeming with police and security personnel on Tuesday, the last day of the annual session of parliament. Premier Wen Jiabao, due to hold a news conference after the annual session of parliament ends, was expected to defend his government's handling of the riots.

Western nations have called on Beijing to exercise restraint, but International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told Reuters in Trinidad on Monday that there had "absolutely no calls" from governments for a boycott of August's Beijing Games.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on Monday night that the unrest had been organized by followers of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhists' exiled god-king, both within Tibet and in other countries.

"It's not an ethnic issue, not a religious issue or a cultural one," Liu said. "At the root, it's the fundamental problem of the Dalai clique seeking to separate Tibet from China."

The Dalai Lama says he wants autonomy for Tibet within China but not outright independence, and he has strongly rejected the allegation that he launched the protests.

Foreign journalists are not allowed to travel to the Himalayan region of Tibet without permission.

Hong Kong's Beijing-funded Wen Wei Po newspaper, one of a handful of media allowed to send reporters to Lhasa, portrayed a picture of ethnic unity on Tuesday.