China pledges compensation for Tibet violence victims

Families of 18 civilians killed will each receive $28,500; diplomats taken to visit region.

Chinese police 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Chinese police 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Beijing will compensate victims of anti-government protests in Tibet, a state news agency said Saturday, while diplomats were taken to visit the region as China tried to show it has restored order. The communist government wants to enforce calm quickly following the riots, which drew attention to its human rights record as it prepares for this summer's Beijing Olympics. Families of 18 civilians killed will each receive 200,000 yuan ($28,500) the Xinhua News Agency said, citing an announcement by the Beijing-installed Tibet regional government. It said people injured will receive free medical care and owners of damaged homes and shops will get help rebuilding. About two dozen diplomats, including those from the United States, Britain and Japan, were in Tibet on Saturday on a government-organized trip. The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to a request for details of their agenda. It comes after a similar visit by foreign journalists to Tibet's regional capital, Lhasa, backfired when about 30 crying monks burst into a briefing room shouting there was no religious freedom in Tibet. Beijing says 22 people died in protests that spread earlier this month to dozens of Tibetan communities across western China, in the broadest challenges to Chinese rule in decades. Tibetan exiles say almost 140 are dead. Xinhua gave no indication Saturday whether there would be compensation for four other deaths - one police officer and three people who the government says were fleeing arrest. The government says 382 civilians and 241 police officers also were hurt. The protests, led by monks, began peacefully March 10, on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Tibet had been effectively independent for decades before Chinese communist troops entered in 1950. Beijing blames the unrest on supporters of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in exile in India. The United States is represented on the Tibet trip by a second secretary from the US Embassy in Beijing, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington. "He is somebody in the political section who speaks fluent Mandarin and his portfolio is Tibet," he said. The protests in Tibet and in other provinces with sizable Tibetan populations have threatened to mar Beijing's effort to use the Olympics in August to showcase China as a confident, respected power. US President George W. Bush and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Friday they want Chinese leaders to meet with the Dalai Lama to defuse tensions. "It is absolutely clear that there are human rights abuses in Tibet," Rudd told reporters after meeting Bush in Washington. European Union foreign ministers gathering in Slovenia on Friday appealed to China to resolve the crisis peacefully.