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Tibet patrols increased to ensure stability
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A senior Tibetan official said yesterday that intensified police patrols in parts of Tibet were temporary security measures against possible disruptions by the Dalai Lama's followers and Western "Tibet independence" groups.

Legqog, chairman of the standing committee of the Tibet autonomous region's people's congress, said most of the region is stable. But because the Dalai group has not stopped trying to create chaos in Tibet since the March 14 violence last year, armed police have stepped up their presence, he added.

"But these actions are temporary and limited to a few parts of Tibet," said Legqog, who is in Beijing to attend the National People's Congress' (NPC) annual session.

Legqog said the Dalai group does not want stability.

"This year they have intensified secessionist activities, trying to collude with their agents in Tibet," he said.

"They want to internationalize the so-called 'Tibet issue' by creating incidents that undermine the region's stability ... But these attempts will not succeed."

This year is the 50th anniversary of the region's democratic reform: In 1959, Tibetan serfs and slaves, who accounted for more than 90 percent of the region's population, were freed after the central government foiled an armed rebellion led by the Dalai Lama and his supporters.

NPC deputy and Lhasa mayor Doje Cezhug also said sabotage attempts by the Dalai group remain the biggest obstacle to Tibet's development.

Citing tourism as an example, Cezhug said Tibet's economy enjoyed rapid growth in 2007 and early 2008; but the March 14 riots detracted from the autonomous region's development.

Lhasa played host to 1.35 million tourists last year, half the 2007 figure, and tourism income dropped by 58.7 percent to 1.17 billion yuan (US$172 million), the mayor said.

"We also faced other difficulties, such as the halting of factory production and investment outflow, and the shrinking of investment after the riots created panic," he said.

Official figures show last year's violence in Lhasa left 18 people dead, and injured 382 civilians and 241 police officers. Rioters also set fire to 120 houses and 84 vehicles, and looted 1,367 shops, causing US$47 million in economic losses.

(China Daily March 9, 2009)

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