Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama condemned what he called China's "rule of terror" and "cultural genocide" in Tibet, calling for an international probe into unrest there. (Report: T. Coumbousis)
Police opened fire on Tibetan protesters as anti-Chinese rallies spread outside of Lhasa on Sunday, a witness and activists said, amid warnings from the Dalai Lama of a "rule of terror" in his homeland.
The fresh outbreak of unrest, in southwest China's Sichuan province, reportedly left three people dead in a dangerous escalation of a nearly week-long uprising by Tibetans against China's rule of the Himalayan region.
The protests, previously confined mainly to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, have presented China with a huge domestic crisis just as it is trying to present an image of harmony and peace ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Speaking from his exiled base in Dharamshala, India, the Dalai Lama launched a scathing criticism of China's decades-long rule of his homeland and called for an international probe into the unrest.
"Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some cultural genocide is taking place," the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner told reporters.
"They simply rely on using force in order to simulate peace, a peace brought by force using a rule of terror.
"Please investigate, if possible... some international organisation can try firstly to inquire about the situation in Tibet."
In the protest in Ngawa town, Sichuan province, which borders Tibet, at least three people were killed when police shot at hundreds of rioting Tibetans, a resident and two activist groups with contacts there told AFP.
Meanwhile, foreigners in Lhasa reported a massive security presence still in place there as China declared a "people's war" in Tibet to end what has become the biggest uprising against Chinese rule in nearly 20 years.
Foreigners who flew out of Lhasa reported hearing repeated gunfire on Saturday, with armed soldiers patrolling every street.
"I heard muffled gunshot fire. There was no question about it," one tourist, Gerald Flint, a former US marine who runs a medical non-government organisation, told reporters at Chengdu airport in Sichuan.
Flint said security forces poured into Lhasa on Saturday but that there was still "chaos" on the streets.
The worst reported violence occurred on Friday, when Tibetans rampaged through Lhasa, destroying Chinese businesses and torching police cars.
Eighty people have been confirmed dead, the Tibetan government-in-exile said, contradicting the official account in China's state-run media that there were just 10 fatalities.
Despite being under intense international pressure to show restraint, China's communist government indicated it was in no mood to compromise when it declared a "people's war" on anti-Chinese elements in Tibet.
"We must wage a people's war to beat splittism and expose and condemn the malicious acts of these hostile forces and expose the hideous face of the Dalai Lama group to the light of day," the Tibetan Daily said.
It was quoting a statement from Tibetan political and security chiefs made at an emergency meeting on Saturday in response to Friday's violence.
"This grave outburst of fighting, destruction, and burning was planned by reactionary separatist forces both within and outside our borders to smash the social order with the ultimate goal of an independent Tibet."
Eyewitness reports have said protesters on Friday chanted support for independence and the Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland in 1959 following a failed uprising and is still revered by the Tibetan Buddhist faithful.
Authorities plan to attack this support with a propaganda push, the Tibetan Daily said.
"We must firmly guide public opinion in the correct direction... to let all ethnic minorities understand the truth as soon as possible," it said.
China has set a deadline of Monday at midnight for those involved in the demonstrations to surrender.
Lhasa's mayor, Doje Cezhug, insisted on Sunday the situation in the city and throughout Tibet was calm.
With Lhasa sealed off to foreign journalists, independent information was scarce, making it impossible to determine exactly how many people were killed.
Tibetan rights groups said the protests -- which marked the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising -- were an outpouring of frustration at decades of brutal Chinese rule.
China sent troops into Tibet in 1950 to "liberate" the region and officially annexed it a year later.
The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his peaceful resistance to Chinese rule and insists he does not want independence for Tibet, but rather greater cultural autonomy and an end to repression.
The events in Tibet have led to protests in other parts of the world, with Tibetan communities in Australia and India staging protests.
Date created : 2008-03-16