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Tibetan riots spread

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080316/wl_nm/china_tibet_wrap_dc_1;_ylt=AlFntWDMzoK9cw5IaUd11sD9xg8F Tibetan riots spread By Benjamin Kang Lim and Chris Buckley 1
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 16, 2008
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      Tibetan riots spread

      By Benjamin Kang Lim and Chris Buckley 1 hour, 37
      minutes ago

      BEIJING (Reuters) - Rioting erupted in a province
      neighboring Tibet on Sunday, two days after ugly
      street protests by Tibetans against Chinese rule in
      Lhasa that the contested region's government-in-exile
      said had killed 80 people.

      A police officer -- speaking even as the main
      government building in Aba county, Sichuan province,
      came under siege -- told Reuters that about 200
      Tibetan protesters had hurled petrol bombs and burnt
      down a police station.

      The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said
      in an e-mail that thousands of monks of the nearby
      Amdo Ngaba Kirti monastery in Sichuan had raised the
      banned Tibetan flag and shouted pro-independence
      slogans after prayers on Sunday morning.

      Chinese security forces stormed the monastery, fired
      tear gas and prevented the monks from taking to the
      streets, it said.

      The report could not be independently confirmed.

      Earlier, troops locked down Lhasa -- a remote city
      high in the Himalayas barred to foreign journalists
      without permission and now sealed off to tourists too
      -- to prevent a repeat of last week's riots, the most
      serious in nearly two decades.

      The Dalai Lama said that there should be an
      investigation into whether cultural genocide,
      intentionally or not, was taking place in Tibet, and
      said China was relying on force to achieve peace.

      The convulsion of Tibetan anger at the Chinese
      presence in the region came after days of peaceful
      protests by monks and was a sharp blow to Beijing's
      preparations for the Olympic Games in August, when
      China wants to showcase prosperity and unity.

      Tibet is one of several potential flashpoints for the
      ruling Communist party at a time of heightened
      attention on China.

      The government is concerned about the effect of
      inflation and wealth gaps on social stability after
      years of breakneck economic growth, and this month it
      said it had foiled two terrorist plots hatched by the
      largely Muslim Uighur minority in the northwestern
      region of Xinjiang, including an attempt to disrupt
      the Olympics.

      The official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday that
      many shops had reopened and cars were back on the
      streets as calm returned to the city.

      Residents contacted by telephone earlier said they
      were too scared to leave their homes because of the
      security clampdown.

      "We don't dare go out, not for anything. There's too
      much trouble," said one businesswoman from the heart
      of the city.

      Official media said a "people's war" of security and
      propaganda had been launched against support for the
      Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists,
      suggesting Beijing will not heed calls from around the
      globe for a lenient response.

      U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced
      concern in a statement on Saturday that violence
      appeared to be continuing, and she urged Beijing to
      "release monks and others who have been detained
      solely for the peaceful expression of their views."

      Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said China
      should allow an independent U.N. investigation into
      last week's events.

      And India called for dialogue and non-violent means.
      Home to the 72-year-old Dalai Lama, who fled over the
      Himalayas into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising
      that year, India treads carefully with its giant
      neighbor to expand diplomatic and trade ties after
      decades of rivalry, including a brief war in 1962.

      80 DEAD, OR 10?

      A woman in contact with a businessman in Lhasa said
      the streets were teeming with armed police in riot
      gear on Sunday after word of renewed clashes
      overnight, when Hui Muslim Chinese attacked Tibetans
      in revenge for wrecked homes and property.

      "The Tibetans were starting to fight back but then the
      troops stepped in and restored order," she said.

      The report of fresh fighting could not be verified.

      A 19-year-old tourist from the United States, Chelsea
      Hockett, who arrived on a flight from Lhasa, told
      Reuters in the city of Chengdu there had been "a lot
      of shooting."

      "No one can leave the hotels. It was really bad," she

      The self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile in
      Dharamsala, northern India, said 80 people had died in
      the clashes between the authorities and protesters,
      and 72 were hurt.

      "Confirmed, regarding number of bodies, is 80,"
      spokesman Thubten Samphel told reporters from a
      Dharamsala temple. Another official, Tenzin Taklha,
      said most would have been Tibetans.

      It was not clear if anyone had been shot dead. Xinhua
      said only that 10 "innocent civilians" had died,
      mostly in fires lit by rioters, and 12 policemen had
      been seriously injured.

      Monks first took to the streets of Tibet last Monday
      to mark the 49th anniversary of the 1949 uprising, and
      protests soon spread to adjoining regions inhabited by
      pockets of Tibetans.

      In Lhasa on Friday, protesters, some in monks' robes
      and some yelling independence slogans, torched
      vehicles, attacked banks and offices and used stones
      and knives against police.

      Security officials, speaking to Reuters on the
      sidelines of China's annual session of parliament in
      Beijing, defended the Tibet crackdown and said there
      was no call for alarm.

      "Having some problems crop up is nothing to make a big
      deal out of. We just need to deal with them in an
      appropriate manner," said senior army General Zhang
      Wentai. "It won't affect the Olympics, or the
      country's overall security."

      (Additional reporting by Jason Subler and Lindsay Beck
      in Beijing, John Ruwitch in Chengdu and by Jonathan
      Allen in Dharamsala)
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