Tibetan Rioting Spreads Into China

Reuters

BEIJING -- Rioting erupted in a Chinese province neighboring Tibet on Sunday, two days after violent protests by Tibetans against Chinese rule in Lhasa that the region's exiled representatives say killed 80 people and injured over 70.

"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, and torching two police cars and a fire truck. Security forces fired tear gas and arrested five people.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said on its web site that at least seven people had been shot dead in the protests. A police officer, reached by telephone, denied this.

Monks first took to the streets of Tibet last Monday to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising, and protests soon spread to adjoining regions inhabited by pockets of Tibetans.

In Lhasa on Friday, protesters torched vehicles, attacked banks and offices and used stones and knives against police.

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

"The Tibetan nation is facing serious danger. Whether China's government admits it or not, there is a problem," the Dalai Lama told reporters in Dharamsala, his base in northern India's Himalayan foothills.

Meanwhile, 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.

The spasm of Tibetan anger at the Chinese presence in the region came after days of peaceful protests by monks and dealt a sharp blow to Beijing's preparations for the Olympic Games in August.

The government-in-exile in Dharamsala said 80 people had died in the clashes between the authorities and protesters last week and 72 had been injured.

The official Xinhua news agency said only that 10 "innocent civilians" had died, mostly in fires lit by rioters, and that 12 policemen had been seriously injured.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in an e-mail that monks of the Amdo Ngaba Kirti monastery, also in Sichuan's Aba prefecture, had raised the banned Tibetan flag and shouted pro-independence slogans after prayers on Sunday morning.

Chinese security forces stormed the monastery, fired tear gas and prevented the monks from taking to the streets, it said.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

Xinhua said many shops had reopened in Lhasa and cars were back on the streets as calm returned to the city.

The Dalai Lama, who says he only wants greater autonomy for his people, said China nevertheless deserved to host the Olympics this summer.