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59 arrested in Tibet for 'spreading of rumors'

  • Story Highlights
  • Official says police found 48 cases of planning, instigating violence
  • Tibetan Buddhists say Han Chinese are eroding their culture
  • Tensions spilled over into violent protests in March
  • Beijing says 19 people died in violence, Tibetan exiles say 140 died
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(CNN) -- Chinese authorities have arrested 59 people in Tibet accused of spreading rumors and inciting sentiment against the state and public safety, state-run media reported.

Xin Yuanming, deputy director of the Lhasa City Public Security Bureau, announced the arrests Tuesday, saying police had uncovered 48 cases of planning and instigating violence against authorities in Tibet, Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.

The Public Security Bureau deployed a group of 108 police officers to "crack down on the spreading of rumors," Xinhua said.

It was not clear when the arrests took place.

The special police unit also works to crack down on illegal downloads from the Internet and the dissemination of reactionary songs electronically.

While Tibet is technically autonomous from the central Chinese government, its current government is directed from Beijing. The Dalai Lama, traditionally the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, lives in exile in India.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting discord in his homeland -- a charge he denies.

Tibetan Buddhists say they resent the slow erosion of their culture amid an influx of Han Chinese, the largest ethnic group in China.

Resentment against the Chinese in Tibet spilled over last March, when Buddhist monks initiated peaceful anti-Chinese protests in the regional capital of Lhasa. The demonstrations began March 14, the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Beijing's rule that sent the Dalai Lama into exile.

The protests soon turned violent, with demonstrators burning vehicles and shops. Some protesters advocated independence from China, while others demonstrated against the growing influence of the Han Chinese in the area and other regions of China with ethnic Tibetan populations.

The subsequent crackdown left 18 civilians and one police officer dead, according to the Chinese government. Tibet's self-proclaimed government-in-exile put the death toll from the protests at 140.

Following the violent protests, Chinese police detained about 1,300 people, Xinhua has said. About 1,100 of them were later released.

China sentenced 55 people in early November for their involvement in the anti-government protests. Xinhua did not say what they were charged with or what sentences they received.

The agency also did not say if that group included 30 people convicted in April of arson, robbery and attacking government offices in connection with the riots. Those people received sentences ranging from three years to life.

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Beijing blamed the Dalai Lama and his followers for the riots.

The Dalai Lama has said he does not advocate violence or a separate and independent Tibet. He has said he wants a genuine autonomy that preserves the cultural heritage of Tibet.

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