Beijing yesterday rejected an accusation by the Dalai Lama that some monks involved in the Lhasa riots were disguised as mainland armed police, saying the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was using an old photograph taken out of context in order to smear the mainland.
Several western news groups, which state-owned media targeted in a discrediting campaign, were also accused of spreading 'the lie'.
The Global Times, affiliated to Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, splashed a front-page story yesterday saying the photograph circulated on the internet was taken at least three years ago.
It showed officers of the People's Armed Police (PAP) carrying Tibetan monks' robes.
The Dalai Lama said on Saturday that Beijing had disguised its troops as monks to give the impression that Tibetan monks were instigating the riots in Lhasa on March 14.
The mainland newspaper said the security forces quelling riots in Lhasa could not possibly have been wearing the uniforms shown in the photograph because they were summer uniforms, unsuitable for the cold March weather.
It also said the PAP had changed to new uniforms in 2005, which feature shoulder emblems. The armed officers shown in the photograph were in old-style uniforms which had been phased out after 2005.
The newspaper attacked the Dalai Lama, saying 'it is not the first time the Dalai clique twisted facts' and that the Indian town of Dharamsala, where his government-in-exile is located, 'is a source of lies'.
The story was picked up by Xinhua and major news websites. Xinhua said the photograph was taken during a performance years ago, when soldiers borrowed robes from monks before performing on stage.
'The Dalai Lama made up a rumour and some western media recklessly spread it. The obvious loopholes have made them a laughing stock,' the agency said.
This is the latest effort by state-owned media to discredit foreign journalists, accusing them of factual errors in their reports about the Tibetan unrest. The tactic has won the government public support, with many people condemning the western media's 'biased reports'.
News groups - including Xinhua, China Central Television and the English-language China Daily - ran reports detailing what they called factual errors by the BBC, CNN, Fox News and The Washington Post.
The mainland reports used elaborate charts to demonstrate how the BBC had run an online photograph of an ambulance with a caption describing it as a police vehicle involved in the crackdown on rioters in Lhasa.
China Daily accused The Washington Post of running an online photograph showing Nepali police clashing with Tibetan protesters in Kathmandu with a caption stating they were Chinese police in Lhasa.
An unidentified female Chinese diplomat accused the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Price laureate, of having had close ties to the Nazi regime before the second world war, Kyodo said.