Harper urges China to 'show restraint' in Tibet

As protesters gathered on Parliament Hill Thursday to condemn the Chinese crackdown in Tibet, Canada's prime minister issued a sternly worded warning of his own.

As protesters gathered on Parliament Hill Thursday to condemn China's crackdown on a violent uprising in Tibet, Canada's prime minister issued a sternly worded warning of his own.

Protesters rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Thursday. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

"Canada shares the concerns about what is happening in Tibet," Harper said a written statement. "Canada calls upon China to fully respect human rights and peaceful protest. Canada also calls on China to show restraint in dealing with this situation."

His words came as an estimated 1,000 demonstrators converged in front of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa shouting "shame, shame."

Chanting slogans, listening to speeches and waving dozens of red, blue and gold Tibetan flags, they condemned Chinese leaders for their response to a protest in Tibet's capital Lhasa last Thursday.

While China says 13 "innocent civilians" were killed in the violence, there are reports that as many as 80 protesters have been killed.

Protesters want UN to investigate

Rally participant Thupten Wangyal said demonstrators are demanding Canada issue a "strong condemnation" of China's actions.

"We also want a United Nations fact-finding committee to be sent to Tibet to find out what is actually going on," said Wangyal, who travelled from Toronto to attend the rally.

Demonstrators will deliver a petition to government officials asking that Canada become more involved in urging China end the violence.

"We're going to ask them to press the Chinese government more strongly than it is right now," said Gelek Badheytsang, a spokesperson for Students for a Free Tibet.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre addressed the rally with a handwritten message from Harper, recapping the prime minister's statement to China. Poilievre said Harper was watching the demonstration from his office window.

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier also issued a statement expressing concern about the situation in Tibet Thursday.

"I once again call on China to respect the right to protest peacefully," he said, noting that he's already spoken to Chinese officials about the issue.

"The most constructive option at the present time, I believe, would be for the Government of China to enter into direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his designated representatives."

"Such dialogue may ensure an already tense situation does not deteriorate into further violence."

No Olympic torch relay in Tibet: protesters 

Protesters in Ottawa Thursday did not call for a boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, even though other international pro-Tibet groups have.   

Organizers said about 1,000 people showed up to denounce China's actions in Tibet. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

"Well leave it up to sponsors to decide whether they want to be a part of a bloody games," said Badheytsang of Students for a Free Tibet.

However, demonstrators are calling on the International Olympic Committee to remove Tibet from the Olympic torch relay route. The group is afraid more violence will erupt of the torch passes through Tibet, as it is expected to in May.

"We're not calling for the boycott of the Beijing Olympics, we're just asking that the IOC remove Tibet from the proposed Olympic torch relay route," said Badheytsang.

Some in the crowd carried banners reading "Have Your Olympics, Give Us Tibet."

4 shot, 4 wounded in Tibet

The protest comes as China acknowledged its police shot and wounded four protesters earlier this week in a Tibetan town in the western province of Sichuan. China's tight media restrictions make it difficult to get accurate information from the region.

Chinese authorities also said they had arrested two dozen people in connection to the unrest, which erupted into violence last Thursday following days of peaceful protests in Lhasa.

Unconfirmed reports from the region, which is tightly controlled by the Chinese government, say hundreds of Tibetans have been rounded up.

China has accused Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of masterminding the protests.

In 1951, the Chinese army occupied Lhasa and forced Tibet to sign a treaty with Beijing recognizing China's rule. Under the treaty, Tibet became a "national autonomous region" ruled by a Chinese commission, with the Dalai Lama as a figurehead ruler.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in India, has said he'll resign as ruler if it would end the violence.

With files from the Canadian Press