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China breaks silence on Tibetan self-immolati -

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Chinese officials have described a wave of self-immolations carried out by Tibetan protesters as a
form of terrorism.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: In China, local government officials have spoken for the first time about
the grim wave of self-immolations carried out by Tibetans protesting against Chinese rule. They've
acknowledged Tibetans are calling out independence slogans before killing themselves and they've
described this as a form of terrorism master-minded by the Dalai Lama and exile groups.

China correspondent Stephen McDonnell reports from Beijing.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL, REPORTER: Western Sichuan, a place in total security lockdown, is at the heart
of a wave of Tibetan self-immolations protesting against Chinese rule. Aba has been the worst-hit
area and now its mayor, Wu Zegang, has spoken out for the first time about those who've died in his
town. He's in Beijing for the National People's Congress.

WU ZEGANG, MAYOR OF ABA TOWN (voiceover translation): These people have things in common. First
they have shouted out separatist slogans such as "Free Tibet" before taking these actions. All of
them have criminal records or bad reputations.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Exiled groups estimate there've been two dozen immolations over the past six
months, including three this week. Wu Zegang blames these exile groups and especially the Dalai
Lama for encouraging the suicides.

WU ZEGANG (voiceover translation): The Dalai Lama is using their expectations of washing away shame
and guilt. He tempts them to clean their criminal records and enjoy the after-life.

STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Beijing is thousands of kilometres from Western Sichuan, far enough away to keep
this issue completely out of the public spotlight here. But Sichuan's party bosses must come to the
capital for the annual session of Parliament and here they run the gauntlet of the foreign press

After his prepared statement, Wu Zegang didn't want to talk anymore. He was swept out of the
meeting via a back door.

Other congress delegates were just as keen to get out without answering any media questions about
the huge security crackdown in their province.

Stephen McDonnell, Lateline.