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Report: Lhasa bloodshed leaves at least 30 dead

Latest update : 2008-03-15

The Tibetan government in exile has received reports that there were at least 30 deaths in the Chinese government crackdown on the past days' protests in Tibet. The Chinese government is reporting only 10 deaths. (Story: B.Harris)

New protests led by Buddhist monks broke out on Saturday in the northwest Chinese province Gansu, according to Tibet support groups. The largest rally was dispersed by Chinese security forces using tear gas.

“The Tibetan affair must be handled with precaution, although the more so given that China fears a spread to other regions where significant Tibetan communities live. This is the case, notably, in the Gansu province where 200 people were arrested Friday by the police as they were getting ready to protest, says Sébastien Le Belzic, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Beijing.

“We have confirmation of protests at the Labrang monastery in Xiahe and security forces have intervened with tear gas, Kate Saunders, of the International Campaign for Tibet told AFP. She added that “according to two sources there up to 5,000 people at Labrang,” which is one of the biggest monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet’s administrative region.

Protests also took place on Saturday in at least two other cities in this province that is home to several monasteries according to information from the Free Tibet Campaign.

At least ten dead in Friday’s riots in Lhasa

The anti-Chinese riots that took place on Friday in Lhassa led to ten deaths, according to the New China news agency, while the Tibetan government in exile says it can confirm 30 deaths. Unconfirmed reports claim as many as 100 dead. Whatever the definitive numbers, these riots and protests are the bloodiest in Tibet since 1989, which were marked by dozens of deaths.

“Information is very hard to get,” says Le Belzic. “The region is now totally surrounded. Tourists can no longer get into Tibet, same as journalists who are prohibited from setting foot there.”

The Tibetan capital is now in the hands of the army, at the moment when China is in the spotlight, ahead of the Olympic Games. The Olympic torch has been scheduled to pass through Lhasa in the coming weeks.  On Saturday the city was calm and under the control of security forces. Tanks patrolled the streets, according to witnesses. Chinese authorities promised clemency to rioters who turned themselves in before midnight Monday.

On the Tibetan side, the prime minister of the government in exile, Samdhong Rinpoché, called on China to act with “compassion” in Tibet and for Tibetans to stop their violence.

“We hope that Chinese authorities, which in the past put an end to the pro-democratic movement in Tiananmen Square, will deal with this situation with compassion and wisdom, he said to the AFP.

The Tibetan government in exile in northern India has called for an investigation by the UN into the murderous violence in Tibet. “The Tibetan Parliament calls on the UN to send representatives immediately and to intervene and investigate into the present violations of human rights in Tibet.”

Scenes broadcast for the first time on Chinese television

Numerous boutiques were set on fire Friday in the historic center of the Tibetan during the protests organized by Buddhist monks, who had been celebrating, since the beginning of the week, the 49th anniversary of the uprising when ended with the exile of the Dalai Lama.

The national Chinese Television channel CCTV showed for the first time scenes of the rioting on Saturday in Lhasa. In them, a crowd of protesters can be seen, among them monks looting and setting fire to stores. The people of Tibet are revolted and firmly condemn this movement which is headed for failure,” according to the report’s narration.

The regional government confirms that security forces did not fire on the protestors but did fire warning shots.

According to Chinese authorities, no foreigner was wounded during the demonstrations “fomented by the Dalai Lhama and his entourage.” The conspiracy by these separatists is going to fail,” says Qiang Ba, president of the regions under Chinese control since 1951.

Date created : 2008-03-15