US Concerned About Prison Terms for Tibet Protesters

The United States says it is concerned about China's sentencing of 30 people to prison this week over their alleged involvement in recent Tibetan unrest.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters in Washington Wednesday that while the United States does not think anyone should break the law, it also believes in freedom of expression and assembly.

Perino says the U.S. is encouraged by China's offer late last week to open dialogue with representatives of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. She also says she believes the Dalai Lama could help China calm tensions in the area.

On Tuesday, a court in Tibet sentenced 30 Tibetans from three years to life in prison for taking part in the unrest.

Human Rights Watch has criticized the trials, saying China tried and sentenced the 30 Tibetans behind closed doors and without any meaningful legal defense.

China's crackdown on protests in Tibet and other Tibetan regions has triggered protests across the globe and hurt its image in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

In Nepal today, at least 70 Tibetans were detained after they staged anti-China protests in front of the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu. Tibetan exiles have been protesting almost daily in Nepal's capital since early March.

China says 18 civilians and one police officer died after several days of protests in Tibet's capital Lhasa turned violent on March 14th.

Tibet's India-based government-in-exile estimates that at least 203 Tibetans have been killed since China's crackdown on unrest in Tibet and other Tibetan regions began in mid-March.