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China's premier blames Dalai Lama 'clique' for violence in Tibet

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  • NEW: Chinese Premier says China's response to the protests was restrained
  • NEW: Premier called Dalai Lama's claim of "cultural genocide" of his people lies
  • Streets of Lhasa quiet but heavy security, witnesses say
  • U.S. urges Chinese restraint; talks with Dalai Lama
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday blamed supporters of the Dalai Lama for recent violence in Tibet, and said Chinese forces exercised restraint in confronting unrest there.

"There is ample fact and we also have plenty of evidence proving that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique," Wen said in a televised news conference.

The Chinese premier also dismissed the Dalai Lama's claim that China is causing "cultural genocide" of his people in Tibet as lies.

The United States has urged Chinese restraint after days of violent protests in Tibet, even as a deadline passed for anti-Chinese protesters to surrender.

Death tolls from the violence vary. Exiled Tibetan independence campaigners say at least 80 people died while Chinese authorities put the figure lower.

"There are 13 common people who died in the beating, burning and smashing in the riots," said Champa Phuntsok, the head of Tibet's regional government.

"They died of fire, asphyxiation and beating. Some of them were set on fire by rioters and died in the burning."

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the United States is very concerned about the Chinese crackdown on Tibetan protesters.

"We continue to urge restraint on the part of the Chinese government in terms of how it responds to these protesters."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to wire service reports from Moscow, said: "We have really urged the Chinese over several years to find a way to talk with the Dalai Lama, who is a figure of authority, who is not a separatist, and to find a way to engage him and bring his moral weight to a more sustainable and better solution of the Tibet issue."

In a news conference in Beijing on Monday, Champa Phuntsok blamed the violence on "a small group of separatists and criminals" who take their lead from exiled followers of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

On Sunday, the exiled Dalai Lama condemned China's action in his homeland, accusing Beijing of "cultural genocide."

Shops, schools and businesses were open Monday in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, but tensions remained high throughout the territory and three neighboring provinces after days of deadly clashes.

Xinhua reported Monday that 160 locations in Lhasa were burned by rioters, including "banks, a press establishment, shops, schools and hospitals." Video Watch Chinese police on the streets »

The state-run news agency quoted police in Tibet giving protesters a deadline of midnight Monday "to stop their criminal activities and offering leniency to those who surrender themselves.

"Those who surrender and provide information on other lawbreakers will be exempt from punishment," Xinhua quoted a police notice as saying.

James Miles, a reporter for The Economist who arrived in Lhasa just before the violence began last week and has been allowed to stay, told CNN Monday that Lhasa was now quiet but damage was evident throughout the city.

The number of people killed Friday -- and which side they were on -- remained in dispute, but Miles said it appeared the dead included Tibetans as well as Han Chinese who operated businesses there.

Chinese security forces maintained a strong presence, checking identification papers of people on the streets, Miles said.

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Phuntsok said the protesters wanted to destabilize Tibet "at the critical and sensitive time that we are preparing for the Olympics."

"There are 13 common people who died in the beating, burning and smashing in the riots," said Phuntsok. "They died of fire, asphyxiation and beating. Some of them were set on fire by rioters and died in the burning."

He said Chinese police did not fire their guns or use anti-personnel weapons against the Tibetans despite 61 police officers being injured, six seriously.Video Watch riot police search homes »

Tibetan exiles described a much more violent response by police.

A Xinhua story published Monday said the protesters had "indisputable links to peace-preaching Dalai Lama."

Tibet is officially an autonomous region of China, but the Dalai Lama said that Tibetans are treated by the Chinese as second-class citizens in their own land. He said they need full autonomy to protect their cultural heritage.

Since Tibet fell under Communist Chinese control in the 1950s, Han Chinese have moved into the province to participate in the government and operate businesses.

Miles reported seeing incidents Friday of Tibetan crowds attacking Han Chinese residents with stones. He said many of the businesses burned by protesters belonged to Han Chinese.

Violent protests were reported at or near Tibetan monasteries outside of Lhasa and in three other nearby Chinese provinces on Friday and in the days since. Video Watch the generational divide among independence activists »

Tibetan monks at the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, Gansu province -- 750 miles from Lhasa -- apparently staged a protest Friday and Saturday that Chinese security forces acted quickly to stop.

Spence Palermo, a American who was filming a documentary at the monastery, said Chinese officials banned his crew from returning to the monastery Friday. They were suddenly rushed from their hotel Saturday as a "seemingly endless convoy" of Chinese troops headed toward the monastery, he said.

Newsweek magazine reported Monday that as many as 4,000 monks and lay persons clashed with police near the monastery Friday and Saturday.

Tibet Watch, a group based in Dharamsala, India, told CNN that 34 people have died in the Nwaga County area of Sichuan province in western China. The dead include women and children, the group said in an e-mail, adding they were killed by Chinese police attempting to stop the protests.

Eight bodies -- including the bodies of two monks -- were brought to the Nagaba Kirti monastery, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamsala told CNN.


Tibet Watch said another protest took place in Machu County in northwestern China Sunday. It was started by some Tibetan students distributing fliers. They were later joined by monks and laypeople. During the demonstration, several shops and a security headquarters were burned, the group said. An estimated 2,000 Tibetans were using firecrackers in the streets, the group said.

Chinese authorities have denied CNN permission to enter Tibet to report on the current situation. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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