Olympic torch in Tibetan capital amid tight security

LHASA, June 21, 2008 (AFP) – The Olympic torch relay made its way through Tibet’s capital Saturday amid heavy security three months after deadly riots against Chinese rule, in a move condemned by rights groups. Hand-picked spectators cheered runners as they carried the torch through Lhasa, after the relay started in front of Norbulingka, the former summer palace of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader.

Paramilitary police kept a close watch from the ground and from surrounding buildings, while the area was closed off to everyone except those given special passes to attend the relay, an AFP photographer witnessed.

Many locals were told to stay at home, and shops along the relay route in the remote, Himalayan city were closed to the public.

“We are not supposed to leave the hotel to watch the relay, so we are staying inside,” an employee at the Tibet International Hotel told AFP.

China’s rule over Tibet drew international concern following a massive crackdown on unrest that erupted in Lhasa in March and then spread to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say 203 people died in the clampdown, while China has reported killing one Tibetan “