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2769Report: 10 dead in Tibetan violence

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  • Greg Cannon
    Mar 15, 2008

      Report: 10 dead in Tibetan violence

      By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writer 43 minutes ago

      BEIJING - China locked down the Tibetan capital
      Saturday after the largest and most violent protests
      against its rule in the region in nearly two decades.
      At least 10 people were killed when demonstrators
      rampaged through Lhasa, dashing Beijing's plans for a
      smooth run-up to August's Olympics.

      Officials demanded protesters turn themselves in,
      while baton-wielding police patrolled Lhasa's mostly
      empty streets on Saturday. Fires still smoldered from
      the Friday clashes, and residents were under curfew.

      Reports of deaths, arrests and numbers of protesters
      varied and could not be independently confirmed.

      China's official Xinhua News Agency said 10 people —
      including two hotel employees and two shop owners —
      were burned to death, but that no foreigners were
      hurt. The exiled Tibetan government in India said
      about 100 were believed dead, citing unconfirmed

      Buddhist monks led the protests, which began Monday on
      the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against
      Chinese rule. The violent turn comes two weeks before
      China's Olympic celebrations kick into high gear with
      the start of the torch relay, which passes through

      Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympics
      organizing committee, said the unrest would have no
      negative impact on the Games or the relay.

      "The hosting of the Beijing Games is the 100-year
      dream for Chinese people and I think the Chinese
      people, including our compatriots in Tibet, very much
      look forward to hosting the Games," Sun said.

      Already the U.S. and other governments have urged
      China to show restraint toward the protesters, while
      International Olympic Committee President Jacques
      Rogge deferred, saying he didn't have details.

      But a top official promised tough measures against

      "We will deal harshly with these criminals in
      accordance with the law," said Champa Phuntsok,
      chairman of the Tibetan government.

      "Beating, smashing, looting and burning — we
      absolutely condemn this sort of behavior. This plot is
      doomed to failure," said Phuntsok, an ethnic Tibetan,
      speaking on the sidelines of the National People's
      Congress, China's annual legislative session.

      Law enforcement authorities in Tibet were offering
      leniency for demonstrators who surrender before
      Tuesday. Otherwise, they will be "severely punished,"
      according to a notice carried on official Web sites
      and confirmed by prosecutors.

      Phuntsok blamed the uprising on followers of the Dalai
      Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 after the failed
      uprising and is still Tibet's widely revered spiritual

      From Dharamsala, India, the headquarters of the
      Tibetan government-in-exile, the Dalai Lama appealed
      to China not to use force, saying he was "deeply
      concerned," and urged Tibetans "not to resort to

      It is extremely difficult to get independent
      verification of events in Tibet since China maintains
      rigid control over the area. Foreigners need special
      travel permits, and journalists are rarely granted
      access except under highly controlled circumstances.

      But footage and photos sent from Lhasa showed plumes
      of smoke billowing from buildings and small shops
      scattered across several parts of the city. Fire
      trucks moved through mainly empty streets after dark.

      Earlier, eyewitness accounts and photos posted on the
      Internet portrayed chaos in Lhasa on Friday, with
      crowds hurling rocks at security forces, hotels and
      restaurants. The U.S. Embassy said Americans had
      reported gunfire.

      The violence came on the fifth day of what had been
      mostly peaceful protests against China's often harsh
      57-year rule over Tibet. After police tried to stop
      monks from protesting in central Lhasa, ordinary
      Tibetans vented anger on Chinese, hurling stones and
      torching shops and cars.

      "The protesters yesterday went from attacking Chinese
      police to attacking innocent people very, very
      quickly," said a blog entry by a group of Westerners
      staying in a hotel in central Lhasa near the riot.
      "Many Tibetans were also caught in the crossfire."

      Video footage on the web site showed Tibetan looking
      men attacking a motorcyclist, hitting him with rocks
      and pushing him over.

      On Saturday, Xinhua said Lhasa had "reverted to calm."

      "There was not much traffic on the road," the Xinhua
      report said. "Burned cars, motorcycles and bicycles
      remained scattered on the main streets, and the air is
      tinged with smoke."

      Some shops were closed but government staff were
      required to work, said a woman who answered the
      telephone at the Lhasa Hotel.

      "There's no conflict today. The streets look pretty
      quiet," said the woman who refused to give her name
      for fear of retribution.

      Tourists reached by phone or who arrived Saturday in
      Nepal described soldiers standing in lines sealing off
      streets where the rioting occurred. Armored vehicles
      and trucks ferrying soldiers drove the streets.

      "Last night I saw 100 trucks of soldiers driving into
      the city. This morning I saw another 40 trucks of
      soldiers," said Plooij Frans, a Dutch tourist who left
      Lhasa Saturday by plane and arrived in Nepal's
      capital, Katmandu. "Every corner there were tanks, it
      would have been impossible to hold any protest today."

      Government workers said they have been prevented from
      leaving their buildings. "We've been here since
      yesterday. No one has been allowed to leave or come
      in," said a woman who works for Lhasa's Work Safety
      Bureau, located near the Potala Palace, the former
      residence of the Dalai Lama.

      The protests reverberated in and out of mainland

      In the town of Xiahe in Gansu province, where hundreds
      of Tibetans marched Friday, clashes were reported
      Saturday between monks and security forces. About
      three dozen riot troops could be seen assembled in a
      town square equipped with batons and shields, although
      it wasn't clear if fighting had ended.

      In Australia, pro-Tibet protesters clashed with police
      Saturday outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney,
      police said. Four demonstrators were arrested, said a
      police spokesman, who declined to give his name in
      line with departmental policy. Around 70 people took
      part in the protest.

      Dozens of Tibetan exiles in northern India launched a
      new march to Tibet on Saturday, days after more than
      100 other exiles were arrested by Indian authorities
      during a similar rally.

      The arrests occurred Thursday, after Indian officials
      — fearing the march would embarrass China — banned the
      protesters from leaving the Kangra district that
      surrounds Dharmsala.

      On Saturday, the latest marchers crossed the district
      boundary without event, even as a few police marched
      with them.

      Over the centuries, Tibet was at times part of China's
      dynastic empires. Communist forces invaded the region
      in 1950, to reclaim the Himalayan region and seize the
      commanding heights overlooking rival India.

      While activist groups and Western governments have
      said that China has not lived up to its promises of
      improving its human rights record for the Summer
      Games, the IOC has steadfastly refused to take a
      stand, saying the organization is not a political

      "It is not our job," Rogge, the IOC president, told
      reporters while visiting Puerto Rico. "We are not an
      activist organization."

      Instead he said that he would issue a "reassuring
      message" Monday on Beijing's polluted air, which has
      been a concern for athletes.


      Associated Press writers Anita Chang in Beijing, Binaj
      Gurubacharya in Katmandu, Nepal, Ashwini Bhatia in
      Dehra, India, and contributed to this story.


      On the Net:

      International Campaign for Tibet:

      Chinese official news agency: http://www.xinhuanet.com