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Unrest in China after Mongol herder's death: group

Dalai Lama rejects ceremonial role
Dharamshala, India (AFP) May 26, 2011 - Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has rejected an offer to become the "symbolic" head of state, a Tibetan official said Wednesday. Samdhong Rinpoche, outgoing premier of the Tibetan government-in-exile, said the Nobel Peace Prize winner had "explained" his reasons for turning down the ceremonial job. A resolution offering the post to the Buddhist monk by more than 400 Tibetan delegates from 25 countries visiting India was passed on Tuesday. "He refused the request of the general meeting to be a symbolic head of the nation," Rinpoche said in the northern Indian hilltop town of Dharamshala where the government-in-exile is headquartered.

"His holiness explained at length the objective of why he is devolving his functions and responsibilities," Rinpoche told reporters. The 75-year-old Dalai Lama in March said that he would retire as the Tibetan movement's political leader, transferring his powers to a newly-elected head of the government-in-exile. The Tibetan administration is not recognised by any foreign states and its legitimacy in the eyes of Tibetans in Tibet might be questioned without the Dalai Lama's patronage, observers say. The Dalai Lama favours "meaningful autonomy" for his people from Chinese rule, but Beijing considers him a separatist bent on fomenting unrest in his homeland, which he fled in 1959. He escaped to India after an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule and established his exiled government in Dharamshala.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 25, 2011
Hundreds of ethnic Mongols have protested in China this week over the killing of a shepherd that has sparked online calls for even bigger future demonstrations, human rights organisations have said.

The unrest in China's Inner Mongolia region was sparked by the May 10 death of a herder named Mergen, who was run over by a truck driven by an ethnic Han Chinese, the US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre said.

Mergen and other herders had been attempting to block a caravan of coal-hauling trucks in the Xilingol area, angered by an influx of miners that was displacing ethnic Mongol herders, destroying grazing lands and killing livestock, it said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Fury over the incident caused hundreds of Mongols to take to the streets in protest in the Right Ujumchin Banner in Xilingol on Monday, it said, quoting sources in the region.

A banner is a traditional Mongol land division and is equivalent to a county.

Photos showing protesters squaring off with police were posted on overseas rights websites.

Bloggers also were circulating a call online for a large-scale protest in the regional capital Hohhot on May 30, the group said.

A woman official who answered the phone at the Xilingol government office confirmed that protesters had again showed up in Right Ujumchin Banner on Wednesday but had left before noon. She declined to provide further details.

AFP calls to other government and police offices in the area went unanswered.

Many of China's roughly six million ethnic Mongols, who have cultural and ethnic ties with Mongolia to the north, complain of political and cultural repression by Beijing, and say their nomadic, pastoral lifestyle is being extinguished.

Some refer to Inner Mongolia as "Southern Mongolia".

A key irritant is what many Mongols say is an influx of members of China's dominant Han ethnic group triggered by the region's rich coal and other energy deposits.

The Xilingol government said in a statement shortly after Mergen's death that four people had been arrested for the killing and destruction of pasture lands.

earlier related report
Ai Weiwei work on show at key Hong Kong art fair
Hong Kong (AFP) May 25, 2011 - A leading international art fair is to display a provocative work by detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Hong Kong in a show of solidarity with the outspoken dissident amid a government crackdown.

Director Magnus Renfrew said the organisers of ART HK shared the concerns of the international community over Ai's fate, and called for "due process" of the law to be upheld in his case, which has sparked an international outcry.

"Ai Weiwei's works have been greatly admired," he said.

The fair, starting Thursday, is to display Ai's 2007 sculpture "Marble Arm", which depicts an outstretched arm and hand -- with its middle finger raised.

The artist was taken into custody in Beijing last month during the government's biggest crackdown on dissidents and activists in years, with authorities later saying he was suspected of unspecified "economic crimes".

The US and European Union have called for Ai's release, but Beijing has rejected such calls, denouncing them as interfering and inappropriate.

"Marble Arm" was brought to the fair by Switzerland-based Galerie Urs Meile, which also run a gallery in Beijing.

"By presenting his work, we believe his situation will be discussed," the gallery's assistant Rene Meile told AFP.

Chinese police alleged last week that a firm controlled by Ai had evaded taxes, in a move that appeared to be aimed at building their case against the detained artist.

Hong Kong maintains semi-autonomous status from China and enjoys civil liberties not seen on the mainland. Artists and campaigners have staged a series of protests there calling for Ai's release.

ART HK, which is now in its fourth year, will see a record 260 galleries from 38 countries taking part in the four-day fair. It is expected to draw at least 45,000 visitors to see work by over 1,000 artists.

The city, which has become the world's third-biggest auction hub behind London and New York, has ambitions to establish itself as a centre for art in Asia.

The fair will also show new works by cutting-edge artist Barnaby Furnas and an acclaimed anamorphic projection by South African artist William Kentridge.

Organisers said they expect to see tens of millions of dollars in sales over the four days, but could not provide a forecast for the private transactions.

Several auctioneers, including Christie's and Sotheby's, are holding Hong Kong art sales expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming week.

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Tibetan leader to India: make Tibet 'core' issue
New Delhi (AFP) May 21, 2011
The newly elected head of Tibet's government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, has appealed to the Indian government to make Tibet "a core issue" in relations with China. The call comes after Tibetan exiles elected Sangay as their new prime minister last month, following the Dalai Lama's announcement that he would retire as the movement's political leader. "I appeal to the Indian politicians and ... read more

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