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24 arrested for Lhasa riots, says China

world Updated: Mar 20, 2008 12:15 IST
Chris Buckley
Chris Buckley
Reuters
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Tibet authorities announced the arrest of 24 suspects on charges of endangering state security and other "grave crimes" after riots swept the regional capital Lhasa, intensifying a crackdown on anti-Chinese unrest.

Lhasa prosecutors said the two dozen suspects were arrested for "endangering national security as well as beating, smashing, looting, arson and other grave crimes", the official Tibet Daily reported on Thursday.

The prosecutor's tough words and citing of state security crimes, which usually draw harsh penalties and even execution, come as China intensifies a crackdown on protests that have swept Tibet and neighbouring provinces with big ethnic Tibetan populations.

Tibetan areas have been smothered with troops, and foreign reporters have been excluded from reporting there.

China says the unrest was instigated by the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, to sabotage Beijing's Olympic Games in August, a claim he has outright rejected while calling for an end to violence

"The facts of the crimes are clear and the evidence is solid, and they should be severely punished to protect the strictness of the law," said Lhasa deputy chief prosecutor Xie Yanjun, according to the Tibet government Web site (www.chinatibetnews.com).

"This law-breaking was organised, premeditated and carefully planned by the Dalai clique. As a law-enforcement body, we will use the facts as the basis for applying the law as a yardstick to resolutely attack the wild arrogance of criminal elements."

The eruption of Tibetan discontent against the Chinese presence brought bloody rioting to Lhasa on Friday, and ripples of unrest have continued across Tibet and neighbouring areas.

The official Xinhua news agency on Thursday said "great damage" had been done on Sunday to shops and government offices in Aba county, Sichuan province, confirming earlier accounts of severe unrest there.

Protesters in Aba yelled for Tibetan independence and waved flags of the Tibet "government-in-exile", overseen by the exiled Dalai Lama in northern India, Xinhua reported late on Wednesday. It also said some protesters wielded rocks and petrol bombs.

The anti-Chinese riots and looting in Lhasa injured 325 people and caused damage of some $28 million dollars in damage, Xinhua said. China has said that 13 innocent people died in the violence, and at least 3 rioters.

Exiled Tibetan groups have said that as many as 100 Tibetans died.

After the riots in Lhasa, authorities announced a deadline for protesters to hand themselves in to police and gain more lenient treatment. Those who did not surrender by Monday midnight would be harshly punished, authorities warned.

By late Wednesday, 170 people had surrendered to authorities, Xinhua reported.

(Editing by David Fox)