China Jails 12 More Tibetans Over March Riots

July 11, 2008 Updated: July 11, 2008

BEIJING—Chinese courts jailed 12 more rioters for their roles in unrest in Tibet, state media said, weeks before the Beijing Olympics and after Beijing deported a Tibetan British woman.

China's official Xinhua news agency said late on Thursday that to date China has convicted 42 people for their role in the riots while another 116 await trial. Some 953 people were detained by the police, Xinhua said, quoting Palma Trily, the No. 1 vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government.

He did not give details on the length of the latest 12 sentences handed down on June 19 and 20 but said neither these rioters nor 30 people convicted earlier had received death sentences.

“But whether or not the death penalty will be applied for suspects still being investigated has to be determined based on Chinese laws,” Palma Trily was quoted as saying.

China has made security a top priority for the Beijing Olympics and has deployed a 100,000-strong anti-terrorism force and surface-to-air-missiles in major Olympics venues.

Rights groups say China is using Olympic security as an excuse to crack down on internal dissent, particularly in Xinjiang and in Tibet, where riots on March 14 sparked anti-Chinese protests around the world.

Dechen Pemba, 30, was escorted onto a plane to London after being interrogated by Chinese security officials in Beijing on Tuesday.

She told Reuters by telephone from London that she was innocent and said the deportation was made by a paranoid government less than one month before the start of the Olympics. The Tibetan Youth Congress denied she was a member, and she also issued a statement denying any association with the congress.

Overseas Tibetan advocacy groups said residents of Beijing were targets simply because of their ethnicity.

“There's an unprecedented security sweep at the moment in Beijing due to the Olympics,” said Kate Saunders, of the International Campaign for Tibet. “It seems as though almost every Tibetan in Beijing is potentially under suspicion.”

Exiled Tibetans and others dogged the international leg of the Olympic torch relay in ensuing weeks, while some Chinese living or studying abroad staged nationalistic counter-protests.