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Beijing accused of torturing Tibetan foes Watchdog agency issues critical report


BEIJING -- Chinese authorities are torturing and murdering Tibetan independence activists, their relatives and perhaps even children, according to a report released yesterday by Amnesty International.

"Torture is endemic in Tibet," the human rights group's report claims, noting that in recent years there have been "hundreds of reports by former detainees and eyewitnesses which indicate that peaceful and unarmed Tibetans have been systematically beaten when taken into custody.

"Detainees have been . . . given electric shocks and tied with ropes in excruciatingly painful positions in order to extract from them 'confessions' or 'information' about activities related to Tibetan independence," the report said.

Amnesty International also has received reports that, since 1990, protesters involved in several small, peaceful demonstrations in Tibet have been stabbed or shot by police officers, with at least several fatalities.

"Some, including children, were reportedly shot among crowds of people running away from police forces firing at them," the report said. "In a number of cases, the killing of particular individuals appears to have been deliberate and intentional."

These killings are in addition to several hundred civilians already known to have been killed by Chinese security forces during a series of sometimes violent, pro-independence protests in Lhasa, Tibet's capital, between 1987 and 1990. Lhasa was under martial law for a year until spring 1990.

The group's report said that as of early this year more than 200 Tibetan dissidents were being detained without trial in "re-education-through-labor" camps. Dozens of other Tibetan political prisoners are serving long-term sentences, some imposed as long ago as the late 1970s, the report said.

China had no immediate comment on the report.

However, it usually rejects foreign criticism of its handling of Tibet and other human rights issues as unwarranted intervention in its internal affairs.

The Chinese government also has maintained that the dissemination of dissenting ideas is not a crime in China, and that it has no political prisoners.

But China labels Tibetan independence activists "splittists" and considers them guilty of "counterrevolutionary" crimes. The chief Chinese prosecutor this spring revealed that his agency had uncovered 404 cases of officials who had used torture to get confessions throughout China in 1991.

Amnesty International primarily based its report on unofficial sources in Tibet.

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