A group of young Tibetans fought back with knives when Chinese authorities attacked and prevented them from honoring a self-immolator, prompting police to open fire, according to Tibetan sources.
The police had attacked the group as well as another group of Tibetans mourning the death of Tsering Phuntsok, 28, who burned himself outside a police station in Sichuan province’s Ngaba [in Chinese, Aba] prefecture on Jan. 18 in a challenge to Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas.
“On Jan. 18, several Tibetans from Drachen township in Marthang county in Ngaba prefecture were preparing to leave to pay their respects and participate in prayers for Tsering, who had self-immolated,” Sherge, a Tibetan living in India, told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.
“They were stopped and beaten by police, and about 10 of them were detained,” Sherge said, citing contacts in the region.
The next day, police approached a second group of Tibetan youth from nearby Serdue township who had gathered at a restaurant while preparing to attend prayer services at Tsering Phuntsok’s family home.
Police harassed and beat the group, who “responded by attacking the police with knives, injuring seven of them,” Sherge said.
More police arrived and opened fire, Sherge said, though whether police had fired warning shots or fired directly into the crowd was not clear.
“One Tibetan who was injured was detained, but the other young Tibetans escaped from the scene,” he said.
Chinese authorities then called public meetings in the county seat and demanded to know the whereabouts of four of the Tibetans who had been identified as having fought with police.
“Anyone knowing where they were and who did not hand them over was threatened with severe punishment,” Sherge said, adding that police also declared illegal any expressions of solidarity with self-immolators.
Participation in prayer services honoring the dead were included in the ban, Sherge said.
Tibetan regions of China have been rocked in recent years by a wave of self-immolation protests by Tibetans challenging Beijing’s rule and calling for the return from exile of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Ninety-eight have set themselves ablaze so far to call for Tibetan freedom and for cultural, religious, and language rights since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.
China on the other hand has defended its rule of Tibet, claiming it has brought development and improved living standards to the formerly independent region since its troops marched in more than 60 years ago.
Reported by Lobe for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.