Because of ongoing violence in China-controlled Tibet, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert on Monday, warning U.S. citizens about safety and security concerns.

Violence broke out on March 14 following peaceful demonstrations in Lhasa.

“U.S. citizens in Lhasa should seek safe havens in hotels and other buildings and remain indoors to the extent possible,” the State Department said. “Americans are advised to defer travel to Tibet at this time.”

The travel alert is valid until April 14.

According to the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in China received reports from American citizens in Lhasa of “gunfire, rioting and other violence.”

On Saturday, a statement issued by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “We urge China to respect the fundamental and universally recognized right of all of its citizens to peacefully express their political and religious views, and we call on China to release monks and others who have been detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views.”

Rice also said that President George W. Bush “has consistently encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama … so that long-standing issues with regard to Tibet may be resolved.”

Violence broke out in Tibet following the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa, which took place on March 10, 1959.

In a March 10 statement, the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist spiritual leader of Tibet, said, “This year, the Chinese people are proudly and eagerly awaiting the opening of the Olympic Games. I have, from the very beginning, supported the idea that China should be granted the opportunity to host the Olympic Games. Since such international sporting events, and especially the Olympics, uphold the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, equality and friendship, China should prove herself a good host by providing these freedoms.”

However, as the violence and tensions between China and Tibetans have escalated in recent days, so too has the tone and finger-pointing from both sides. Today, the Dalai Lama issued another statement saying, “Whether it was intended or not, I believe that a form of cultural genocide has taken place in Tibet.”

Reports vary as to the number of deaths related to recent violence in Tibet. China said 13 people were killed by Tibetan "mobs," but Tibetan exiles say nearly 100 people are dead, including 19 they said were shot by Chinese police in the area of Machu in Gansu province, Agence France-Presse reported today.

Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit press freedom organization, today urged governments to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games on Aug. 8 “because of the Chinese government’s mounting human rights violations and the glaring lack of freedom in China.”

“China has not kept any of the promises it made in 2001 when it was chosen to host these Olympics,” said Reporters Without Borders. “Instead, the government is crushing the Tibetan protests and is imposing a news blackout.”
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