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Iron fist fails to smash Tibetan resistance

world Updated: Mar 16, 2008 23:03 IST

Reuters
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Rioting erupted in a province neighbouring Tibet on Sunday, two days after violent protests by Tibetans against Chinese rule in Lhasa that the region’s exiled representatives said had killed 80 people.

“They’ve gone crazy,” said a police officer in Aba county, Sichuan, one of four provinces with large Tibetan populations.
The officer, who declined to be named, said a crowd of Tibetans hurled petrol bombs, burning down a police station and a market in the county’s main town, and set fire to two police cars and a fire truck.

Security forces fired tear gas and arrested five people.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said on a website that paramilitary police shot and killed at least seven protesters. A police officer, reached by telephone, denied this. One ethnic Tibetan resident in Aba said there were sounds like gunshots and there was widespread talk of 10 or more dead.

“Now it’s very tense. There are police going around everywhere, checking and looking over people for injuries,” said another resident of Aba, adding that many of the rioters were students of a Tibetan-language high school.

The new disturbances came as the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and Nobel peace laureate who fled to India in 1959, called for an investigation into whether cultural genocide — intentional or not — was taking place in his homeland.

Anti-riot troops locked down Lhasa — a remote city high in the Himalayas barred to foreign journalists without permission and now sealed off to tourists — to prevent a repeat of Friday’s violence, the most serious in nearly two decades.

A businessman there, reached by telephone, said a tense calm had descended on the city and most people were staying indoors.

State-run China Central Television (CCTV) on Sunday said social order had “basically been restored” in Lhasa, but showed footage of deserted streets choked with debris and burnt-out buildings near the downtown Jokhang temple area.

One young girl who could not jump from a burning building with her family members had died in the flames during the Lhasa violence, CCTV said.

Shops remained closed and residents had loaded 24 trucks with debris, it said, showing pictures of people shovelling piles of ash and charred wreckage.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a statement, urged Beijing to “release monks and others who have been detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views”.