<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile — Violence, protests spread from Tibet to neighboring Chinese provinces

Violence, protests spread from Tibet to neighboring Chinese provinces

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

KATHMANDU — Violence spread from Tibet through neighboring parts of China on Sunday as anti-Chinese protesters took to the streets in Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai provinces, with large crowds of Tibetans marching on government buildings, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

In the Ngaba [in Chinese, Aba] prefecture of Gansu province, witnesses reported clashes near Kirti monastery and deaths from gunfire. "Just now eight bodies have arrived in Kirti monastery," an eyewitness inside the monastery said in an interview.

Another Tibetan who joined the Ngaba protests reported seeing Tibetans killed by gunfire from inside a police post after the Tibetans attacked police buildings.

"Four Tibetans were killed by gunfire while they were marching near Kirti monastery… Then a little later, another three were killed. They were shot from a distance. Before they were shot, the protesters had smashed the windows at two police posts," the protester said. "There looked like 5,000 to 6,000 protesters....The names of the three people killed later are Tsezin, Norbu, and Lobsang Tashi."

Many remote areas of the Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai plateau are home to large Tibetan populations, many of whom are nomadic tribes.

Protests also erupted Sunday in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in the southwestern province of Sichuan. According to Reuters, rioters surrounded local government buildings, throwing makeshift explosives and bricks.

Tibetans in Ngaba confirmed the reports of clashes to RFA's Mandarin service: "The reports you have heard are all true. This is all happening. Some things that have happened I can't talk about because it is not convenient." Another Tibetan living nearby also confirmed reports of protests in Ngaba, saying they were still going on late Sunday.

Repeated calls to the Ngaba prefecture police headquarters and local government offices met busy signals. An employee at the county hospital declined to comment on the reports of casualties. "We don't know. We don't know right now," the employee said.

In Gansu, Tibetan students at Lanzhou's Northwest National University staged a peaceful demonstration on the university grounds.

"Hundreds of Tibetan students took part, and Tibetan students from other departments tried to join in but were blocked. They declared that their protest was peaceful, and they urged the Chinese authorities to stop their crackdown on Tibetans in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas," a witness said.

"They also expressed solidarity with those Tibetans who protested in Lhasa, Labrang, and others outside Tibet. They had a banner that read, 'We stand together with Tibetans, for glorious democracy and life.'"

In Machu county, Gannan, also in Gansu province, hundreds of Tibetans, mostly lay people, marched to county government buildings shouting "Long live the Dalai Lama!" and carrying a portrait of the Dalai Lama.

In Sichuan, "the situation is very tense," said one Tibetan resident.

"On March 15, there were protests in Kham Tawo [in Chinese, Daofu] in Ganzi prefecture. Suddenly 10 armed police trucks arrived…Kham Sershul monastery was surrounded. They are patrolling streets and randomly checking identification," the source said.

Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), meanwhile remained under lockdown, with a heavy presence of security forces, police, and armored vehicles. Witnesses who declined to be identified told RFA's Tibetan service of scattered protests around the city.

"I haven't been back to my house for two days now. There are troops all over, and we are completely locked inside. I have no information about what is happening outside," one Tibetan resident of Lhasa said in an interview.

From inside the Tsangkhug nunnery in Lhasa, a witness said five wounded people had died but the cause of death was unclear.

"Two Tibetans who were at the hospital were injured, and they complained that their legs were broken. The body of a young boy is still lying here unclaimed. Several other dead bodies were brought, and many of them were claimed by relatives," the source said.

Another witness in Lhasa said authorities in the city were conducting house to house searches for banned photos of the Tibetan exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, and for fugitive protesters.

"Official warnings were issued to all Tibetan residents of Lhasa that all Tibetan houses will be searched for photos of the Dalai Lama and for Tibetans who were involved in the riots. They were warned that no one should attempt to stop the searches and arrests, and people are not allowed to gather in groups when arrests are made," the source said.

The same person said TAR officials had recalled all Tibetan government workers now in different parts of China, telling them "to report back to Lhasa within three days-they are needed to secure TAR railway lines. Failure to report in will result in 'consequences.'"

Tibetans in Lhasa said the armed police had blocked all intersections around the central, older part of the city, and many people were stuck indoors relying on state-run television news.

A Tibetan resident from the outskirts of the regional capital said it was impossible to get into the city center. "The military has blocked every intersection, so we can't go anywhere. So I basically have no idea what is going on in town."

A Han Chinese resident of Lhasa surnamed Wang said: "The television news report yesterday said those people were burning, killing and looting. But we don't know. The compound has been sealed off, and they won't let us out."

Tibetan exiles and witnesses report rising death tolls in clashes between security forces and protesters, but precise casualty figures remain impossible to gather.

Violence erupted March 14 after five days of protests, with demonstrators torching Chinese-owned shops and cars in the worst violence in the region in two decades.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama's exile government, said multiple witnesses inside Tibet had reported at least 80 people had been killed since Friday, although how many were protesters was unclear.

China's official Xinhua news agency has said at least 10 civilians were burned to death on Friday.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have locked down the Tibetan capital as witnesses report spreading demonstrations in more remote areas and a climbing death toll after security forces fired on rioting protesters, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. Sources in Lhasa said residents had been warned to stay indoors after the worst unrest in Tibet in two decades. Others described seeing tanks and armored personnel carriers in the streets. "Today there are army [troops] everywhere. There is no way to go and come. We are confined to our own homes," one Tibetan man in Lhasa told RFA's Tibetan service.

"Every Tibetan is stopped, and their IDs are checked," another source said. "Even Tibetan government workers are checked, but the Chinese are free to move around. Many Tibetans who were arrested were taken to Toelung and other jails in different parts of Lhasa."

China's official Xinhua news agency said 10 "innocent civilians" had been shot or burnt to death in the street clashes in the remote capital. Other estimates, from witnesses and exiled Tibetan groups, set the death toll as high as 100.

Witnesses reported seeing a number of dead bodies in and around Lhasa, but an exact toll was impossible to gather. Authorities meanwhile offered leniency to protesters who surrender by midnight Monday.

"Today when the Tibetans were demonstrating, many Tibetans were killed. We Tibetans had no weapons to fight back. When the Tibetans were gathered in front of the Jokhang [temple], the Chinese fired at us. I personally saw more than 100 Tibetans killed when the Chinese fired at the Tibetan crowd," one man in Lhasa told RFA's Tibetan service late Friday.

"The Tibetans who participated in the protests were from the whole Lhasa area. When I looked back, all the Chinese shops were destroyed. I think not one Chinese shop is intact in the Barkhor area. All kinds of things were piled up on the main road and burned. Many vehicles were burned and destroyed."

Relatives of the slain protesters "collected all the dead bodies in front of the Jokhang and offered prayers and scarves. Those family members whose relatives were among those killed took their bodies away. None of my family members was among the killed, but I was almost killed too, and many bodies looked familiar," he said.

Protests have meanwhile spread outside Lhasa and into the Amdo and Kham regions of China's Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. On Saturday, an estimated 3,000 protestors gathered from areas near the Labrang monastery in Xiahe.

"The demonstrators are shouting 'Long live the Dalai Lama!,' 'Release the Panchen Lama!,' and 'Start the Sino-Tibetan peace dialogue!,' one source told RFA.

Another said, "They marched toward local government offices and damaged several windows, and a big demonstration is going on." Demonstrations were also reported in Lithang and Sershul in Kham and at Samye monastery, south of Lhasa.

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