The Government's reaction to the Tibetan crisis is being criticised by politicians and the greater community. Prime Minister Helen Clark issued her first comment today about the conflict, after citing lack of information. She said she was "deeply concerned" at reports of violence and riots in Tibet and subsequently elsewhere in China.
"We want to see an end to the violence. New Zealand has long urged China to engage in meaningful dialogue with representatives of the Tibetan people as we think this is the best way to achieve a lasting resolution of problems in Tibet," she said.
Miss Clark previously called for restraint on both sides, whereas the United States, European Union leaders and Australia have urged Beijing to exercise restraint. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said their government has spoken to China about its response in Tibet.
"I'm not going to shout my mouth off until I know more about the facts of it..." Miss Clark said on the Breakfast show yesterday.
Violence erupted in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on Friday, as protests against the 49-year occupation by the Chinese Communist Party boiled over.
Death toll accounts vary, with the Tibetan government-in-exile saying 80 people have been confirmed dead, contradicting the Chinese regime's report of 10 fatalities.
Tensions in the Tibetan capital had been building over previous days and the three biggest monasteries were sealed off by thousands of soldiers and armed police in a crackdown against protests.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said that it had "received first-hand reports from American citizens in the city who report gunfire and other indications of violence".
Armed police reportedly used water cannons and tear gas on demonstrators, while cars and shops were set alight in what is believed to be the largest demonstration against Communist Party rule in 20 years.
The last mass protest against the regime took place in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in 1989 when tanks rolled over students who had gathered to call for democracy.
The Chinese regime has sealed off Lhasa, with reports of tanks patrolling the streets.
Mr. Tsegyam Ngaba, the Chairman of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Taipei, in a telephone interview on Saturday rebuked the Chinese regime for lying and condemned it for suppressing the Tibetans' peaceful protest with violence.
Beijing denied firing at Tibetans during the suppression, Mr. Ngaba said, convinced that the regime did fire at the protesters and killed Tibetan monks and civilians.
"It is a clear fact that they fired at Tibetans. Foreign tourists and Tibetans have witnessed the shootings.
"Moreover, more than 30 or 40 people may have died as a result of the shootings, including Tibetan monks and civilians," Mr. Ngaba said.
Tibetans are hoping to use this year's summer Olympics to draw attention to their plight.
Thuten Kesang, Chairman Friends of Tibet in New Zealand said the crackdown is "absolutely shocking because China are supposed to improve human rights ever since they got the Olympic Games."
He said the Chinese regime had overreacted to a peaceful demonstration.
"When you suppress a nation for so long, sooner or later, it has to boil over."
"This year is the ideal opportunity for the Tibetans to show the world that all things in China are not quite correct."
An Agence France-Presse report quotes top athletes who are considering boycotting the Olympic Games because of the crackdown against Tibetans.
The newspaper quoted German athletes expressing doubts about China as a fit host for the Games.
"I have considered whether I can compete in China under these conditions,'' equestrian Ludger Beerbaum said.
"We will surely discuss the issue amongst ourselves here at the tournament in Dortmund."
Javelin thrower Christian Obergfoell said she has always questioned why they gave the Olympic Games to China.
"After Tibet, my feeling will not be any better," she said.
New Zealand Response
The National Party said in a press release they are "alarmed and troubled" by the reports of violence in Tibet.
"While there is uncertainty around the detail of casualties, it is clear that recent events there have been most unwelcome. Firm messages of international sentiment are required," said Foreign Affairs spokesman Murray McCully. Green Party Foreign Affairs and Human Rights spokesperson Keith Locke said, "I think it's abominable what the Chinese are doing there, and if New Zealand is to retain any moral integrity it's got to make a clear statement."
In recent years, Beijing has used more soft power in the form of investing in the region, vilifying the Dalai Lama, and infiltrating the clergy with Communist Party supporters. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists, urged the regime not to use violence to quell the protests, which he called "a manifestation of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people under the present governance".
He said in a statement: "I therefore appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people".