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Monks protest upstages China's PR tour

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(CNN) -- China's carefully managed international media tour of Tibet's capital ran into a public-relations roadblock Thursday -- a protest by screaming Buddhist monks at a holy shrine.

Beijing invited about two dozen international journalists to tour Tibet's capital, Lhasa, to show them the city is calm after recent anti-China protests. The tour marked the first time foreign reporters had been allowed into Tibet since the unrest began two weeks ago.

But the protest by about 30 monks at the sacred Jokhang Temple showed that Lhasa is anything but calm.

"Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!" yelled one young Buddhist monk, according to The Associated Press, one of the news organizations allowed on the tour.

CNN was not allowed on the tour. Angry Chinese bloggers have accused CNN and several other Western news organizations of being unfair in covering the pro-independence protests in Tibet, which is controlled by China.

Chinese officials said the bloggers' criticism reflects wider public opinion.

"You in the media should all reflect on this public outcry," said Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. "It is a reaction by all Chinese people against irresponsible and unethical reporting."

Other news organizations allowed on China's tour of Tibet included The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Financial Times.

In its reporting of the temple incident, China's official news agency, Xinhua, said the monks "stormed into a briefing by a temple administrator to cause chaos." Chinese officials closed off the temple after the monks' protest. Video See how the monks disrupted the tour. »

China has drawn international criticism because of its crackdown in Tibet. Pro-independence protests in Lhasa began March 10 and were peaceful at first. But then violence erupted, with shops burned and stores looted.

Beijing has blamed followers of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, for the violence. The Dalai Lama has criticized the violence and called for dialogue with China.

The protests -- which began on the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising -- have threatened to overshadow Beijing's hosting of the Summer Olympic Games in August.

Other protests have been held in Dharmsala, India -- where the Tibetans have a government-in-exile, Nepal, and in Greece, where protesters disrupted the lighting of the Olympic flame ceremony.


President Bush called Chinese President Hu Jintao Wednesday to express his concern about China's crackdown on protesters in Tibet, the White House said.

Protesters say about 140 of their number have died in the violence, while China says about two dozen people have been killed. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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