Tibetans Cite Spreading Unrest, Mounting Death Toll, as China Clamps Down

2008-03-15
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VideoTibetUnrest031508_200.jpg
China declared a "people's war" in Tibet on Sunday following the biggest uprising against Chinese rule there in nearly 20 years, amid fears that dozens of people were killed in a violent crackdown. AFP Video > >> Watch the video

KATHMANDU-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.

TIBET-CHINA-TANK.jpg
Chinese armoured military vehicles line a street in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on 15 March, 2008. AFP

"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.

Original reporting in Uke, Amdo, and Kham by RFA's Tibetan service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Palden Gyal. Edited and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han

Original reporting in Tibetan

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