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42 rioters sentenced to prison
By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-06-21 07:36

LHASA: Forty-two people involved in the March 14 riots here have been sentenced to jail, while 116 others remain in detention, a senior regional official said on Friday.

The 42 were convicted of various crimes in the local court including arson, theft, creating a disturbance, assembling to assault State organs and preventing State personnel from carrying out their duties, Baema Chilain, vice-chairman of the Tibet autonomous region, said.

Eighteen civilians and one police officer died in the riots, while 382 civilians and 241 police officers were injured. The cost of the damage to property was more than 280 million yuan ($40 million).

Baema said the verdicts were in line with the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China.

All of those found guilty have the right to appeal to the Higher People's Court of the Tibet autonomous region within 10 days, he added.

The court provided translators for defendants from minority ethnic groups, Baema said.

Police detained 953 people in connection with the riots, and 362 others turned themselves in, he said.

Authorities have released 1,157 people who expressed regret for conducting minor crimes, he said.

Baema was speaking to a group of 50 foreign journalists who arrived in Lhasa on Friday to cover the Olympic torch relay there on Saturday.

The 11-km run, involving 170 torchbearers, will start at Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace, and end at Potala Palace.

Earlier reports by foreign media quoted members of the so-called "Tibetan government-in-exile" as saying the Lhasa leg of the relay was their last chance to disrupt the event, as they had attempted to do on several international legs.

In recent months, authorities in several neighboring countries have detained Tibetans seeking to reenter the region ahead of the relay. But the regional government has not encountered any planned disturbances, Baema said.

However, to ensure the safety of people of all ethnic groups, and maintain peace during the Olympic relay and other religious festivals, the government has deployed "a certain number of public security and armed policemen" in the capital, he said.

"We have every confidence the relay will be a success," Baema said.

"It is a special event, and has been anticipated by the people of Tibet for a long time. Any attempt to act against the will of the people is doomed to fail."

All was calm in Lhasa when the journalists, including representatives from China Daily, the BBC, Reuters, AP and AFP, arrived there on Friday. They will stay until Sunday.

As Buddhists turned their prayer wheels, police officers, positioned every 200 m, stood on guard. But no one seemed to mind.

A middle-aged woman named Drolma said: "Our lives have returned to normal, and we are used to seeing the police wandering through the city.

"I don't understand how anyone would want to disturb the relay."

(China Daily 06/21/2008 page1)