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Reports: Tibet protests turn violent

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080314/ap_on_re_as/china_tibet Reports: Tibet protests turn violent By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes ago BEIJING -
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 14, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080314/ap_on_re_as/china_tibet

      Reports: Tibet protests turn violent

      By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes ago

      BEIJING - Angry protesters set shops ablaze and
      gunfire was reported in Tibet's regional capital
      Friday as the largest demonstrations in two decades
      against Chinese rule turned violent just months ahead
      of the Beijing Olympics.

      The protests, in their fifth day and led by monks
      supporting Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai
      Lama, threatened to cast a shadow over China's efforts
      to portray a unified and prosperous nation in the
      run-up to the games.

      Protesters set shops and police vehicles on fire in
      Lhasa, state media and witnesses said. The U.S.
      Embassy in Beijing warned Americans to stay away,
      saying it had "received firsthand reports from
      American citizens in the city who report gunfire and
      other indications of violence."

      The protests are the largest and most sustained in
      Lhasa since Beijing crushed a wave of pro-independence
      demonstrations in 1989. Since then, China has invested
      in the region, vilified the Dalai Lama and tried to
      weed out his supporters among the influential Buddhist
      clergy.

      But Tibetans inside and outside the country have
      sought to use the Olympic Games' high profile to call
      attention to their cause. Beijing has accused the
      Dalai Lama — who many Tibetans consider their rightful
      ruler — of trying to sabotage the games.

      A Lhasa resident, who asked to be unnamed for fear of
      government reprisal, said military police had closed
      all roads leading to the city center.

      "The situation is quite serious. There's a curfew in
      the city and I can see military police block all the
      roads to the center of the city. Nearly all the stores
      and shops are closed," the resident said.

      A Tibetan woman who has family in the city said
      protesters were setting fires.

      "The monks are still protesting. Police and army cars
      were burned. There are people crying," said the
      witness, who also requested anonymity for fear of
      government reprisal. "Hundreds of people, including
      monks and civilians are in the protest."

      Tensions in the Tibetan capital have increased in
      recent days. The city's three biggest monasteries were
      sealed off by thousands of soldiers and armed police
      in a government crackdown against the protests, the
      U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia reported Friday.

      Monks at the major Sera Monastery launched a hunger
      strike Thursday to demand that armed police withdraw
      from the monastery grounds and detained monks be
      released, RFA reported.

      At the Drepung Monastery, two Buddhist monks are in
      critical condition after attempting to commit suicide
      by slashing their wrists, RFA said, citing
      authoritative sources.

      Also believed to be under watch is a third monastery,
      Ganden. The London-based International Campaign for
      Tibet said monks from the Ganden monastery mounted
      protests Thursday, becoming the last of the three
      historically important monasteries known as the "Three
      Pillars of Tibet" to join in the demonstrations.

      Tourists were mainly staying off the streets and were
      being warned away from all the monasteries, said one
      tourist staying at a Lhasa hotel.

      "The Red Army is downtown. It's not safe to walk
      around. All the major monasteries are closed," said
      the tourist, who refused to give her name or her
      nationality. "Tourists don't feel comfortable walking
      around because police are all over."

      The Chinese government was trying to keep foreigners
      from getting in, with travel agents in China and
      neighboring Nepal refusing to issue the special
      permits needed to visit the region.

      It is extremely difficult to get independent
      verification of events in Tibet since China maintains
      rigid control over the area. Journalists are rarely
      granted access except under highly controlled
      circumstances.

      Officials who answered phones at police and Communist
      Party offices in Tibet on Friday said they had no
      information about the violence and refused to comment.

      Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically a part of
      China. But many Tibetans argue the Himalayan region
      was virtually independent for centuries and accuse
      China of trying to crush Tibetan culture by swamping
      it with Han people, the majority Chinese ethnic group.

      The protests by the Buddhist monks began Monday, the
      anniversary of the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising
      against Beijing rule.

      In northern India, meanwhile, organizers said more
      than 100 Tibetan exiles began a two-week detention
      after police arrested them during a march to their
      homeland to protest China's hosting of the Olympics.

      March coordinator Tenzin Palkyi said Friday the exiles
      were being kept in detention in a state-run hotel
      while authorities investigate the charges of
      threatening the "peace and tranquility" of the region.
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