Lhasa riot no ethnic issue, but political: expert

Updated: 2008-03-26 16:16

BEIJING - The March 14 Lhasa riot is no ethnic issue, but a political one, as Tibetans and people of the Hui and Han ethnicity have all fallen victim to it, a prominent Tibetologist said Wednesday.

Dramdul, Institute of Religion Studies with the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC) director, said the incident revealed that people with ulterior motives were using the so-called ethnic clash as an excuse to undermine ethnic harmony and the country's national unity.

China advocates concord, solidarity and common progress between its different ethnic groups, he told a press conference here.

"We're pleased to see some Buddhist personnel and monastery representatives of Tibet visit the riot-hit mosques to provide comfort to Muslims. We've also seen people of different ethnic groups stand together to boycott and condemn the violence committed by a handful of rioters," he said.

"These, I believe, represent the true picture of China's ethnic relations."

Tanzen Lhundrup, deputy director of the Institute of Social and Economic Studies with the CTRC, told the press conference that academically, the well-being of ethnic relations can be judged from residential patterns and inter-ethnic marriages.

In Lhasa, different ethnic groups are neighbors, and there are also quite a number of inter-ethnic marriages annually in the plateau city, he said.

"Overall, ethnic relations in Lhasa are very harmonious," said Tanzen who has spent more than 20 years researching the subject.

Violence erupted in Lhasa on the afternoon of March 14, when rioters killed 18 civilians and a police officer and attacked schools, banks, hospitals, shops and government offices.

Damage was estimated at more than 244 million yuan (US$34.4 million).

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