SHANGHAI — Tibetan monks shouting pro-independence slogans caught Chinese officials by surprise Thursday during a highly scripted tour for Western journalists in Lhasa’s central Buddhist temple, disrupting China’s effort to portray the recent Tibetan rioting as the work of violent criminal thugs and separatists.
“Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” yelled one young Buddhist monk, who then started crying, according to an Associated Press correspondent in the tour.
Government handlers shouted for the journalists to leave and tried to pull them away during the 15-minute protest by about 30 monks at the Jokhang Monastery in central Lhasa. It was unclear whether the protesting monks were arrested.
The demonstration amounted to another embarrassment for China, which organized the press tour to help sway international opinion, which has focused on China’s heavy crackdown and arrests in the aftermath of the riots and led to talk of a boycott of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Chinese wanted the reporters to see damage caused by the rioters and interview Chinese victims of the violence, the worst here in 20 years.
Reporters on the tour said the monks shouted that there was no religious freedom in Tibet and that the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader in exile, had been wrongly accused by China of responsibility for the rioting.
China’s official news agency, Xinhua, mentioned the unscripted protest in a brief dispatch, saying 12 monks “stormed into a briefing by a temple administrator to cause chaos.”
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