Violence, Protests Spread From Tibet to Western China

2008-03-16
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TibetUnrestMap031608_200.jpg
Map of the protest areas. Graphic: RFA > >> View larger image

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.

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 nomads.

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Protesters calling for a "Free Tibet" outside the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. Photo: RFA

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.

Original reporting in the Uke, Amdo, and Kham Tibetan dialects by RFA Tibetan staff. Additional reporting by RFA’s Mandarin service. Translations by Karma Dorjee, Palden Gyal, and Luisetta Mudie. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Original reporting in Tibetan

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