China Clamps Down on Tibetan Protests As Many Deaths, Injuries Reported

KATHMANDU—Chinese authorities have locked down the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, after mounting anti-Chinese protests turned violent and an unknown number of people were killed and injured when Chinese forces fired on rioting crowds.

Sources in Lhasa said in separate interviews that residents had been warned to stay indoors after the worst unrest in Tibet in two decades. Authorities meanwhile offered leniency to protesters who surrender to authorities by midnight Monday.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said 10 people, including two hotel employees and two shop owners, had been burned to death. But unofficial estimates, from witnesses and exiled Tibetan groups, set the death toll higher.

Those family members whose relatives were among those killed took their bodies away.

Tibetan witness in Lhasa

Witnesses reported seeing a number of dead bodies in and around Lhasa, but an exact toll was impossible to gather.

One Tibetan source reported seeing scores of bodies after Chinese forces fired on a crowd outside the Jokhang monastery in Lhasa, although that number couldn’t be independently confirmed. “We Tibetans had no weapons to fight back. When the Tibetans were gathered in front of Jokhang, the Chinese fired at us. I have personally seen more 100 Tibetans killed when the Chinese fired at the Tibetan crowd,” the man told RFA’s Tibetan service.

Young Tibetans among the dead

“Many of those killed were young Tibetans, both boys and girls. Many girls were killed too. Some of the Tibetans were killed by Chinese Muslims and then the Tibetans destroyed their mosque,” he said. “The Tibetans who participated in the protests were from the whole Lhasa area. When I looked back, all the Chinese shops were destroyed. I think not one Chinese shop is intact in the Barkhor area. All kinds of stuff were piled up on the main road and burned. Many vehicles were burned and destroyed.”

Relatives of the slain protesters “collected all the dead bodies in front of Jokhang and offered prayers and scarves. Those family members whose relatives were among those killed took their bodies away. None of my family members was among the killed, but I was almost killed too, and many bodies looked familiar,” he said.

Another witness said: “We saw two dead at Ramoche temple, two in the garden, two at the Ganden printing house, and those Tibetans who went to take food to prisoners in Drapchi prison saw 26 Tibetans shot after they were brought in on a black vehicle. There could be about 80 dead, or more, but there is too much commotion here to give an exact number.”

I…appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people. I also urge my fellow Tibetans not to resort to violence.

The Dalai Lama

“Several buildings owned by Chinese immigrants and Chinese Muslim immigrants were set on fire,” the witness said. “All those shops owned by Chinese were ransacked and burned. Tibetan shop owners were told to mark their shops with scarves.”

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Buddhist monks march in Xiahe, Gansu Province on March 14, 2008. AFP

A Tibetan witness said late Friday: “The Chinese authorities deployed all military in the Lhasa area and sent tanks. There could be several hundred tanks and they were shooting into the crowds. They also fired several rounds of tear-gas.”

Other Tibetans reported seeing military vehicles but whether they were tanks or armored personnel carriers was unclear. Residents said Lhasa was under martial law, with protests erupting in other provinces, but officials couldn’t be reached for confirmation.

Another source said Ramoche monastery, which has about 110 resident monks, was badly damaged after Tibetans were found running in the area carrying photos of the Dalai Lama and shouting “Independence for Tibet.’”

‘Very messy’ situation

Local police stopped them, but the crowd—including monks and youths—joined in and attacked police. “The local police didn’t dare take them on, and then the army was called in with tanks,” the source said.

The same source said four monks from Ganden monastery had set themselves on fire in protest.

At Labrang—a major monastery in Gansu province—monks led a protest of at least 1,000 people on Friday, witnesses said. Military and police forces stopped the crowd before they could reach the prefecture government building. The crowd was carrying Tibetan flags and shouting “Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Free Tibet,” witnesses told RFA’s Tibetan service.

Witnesses earlier said paramilitary forces fired on rioting Tibetan protesters in Lhasa, killing at least two people, as Tibetans torched cars and shops and anti-Chinese demonstrators surged through the streets of the regional capital.

Witnesses who spoke to RFA’s Tibetan service reported seeing two bodies in the central Barkhor area of Lhasa. “There was shooting and death,” another Tibetan source told RFA’s Mandarin service, adding, “It’s not convenient to speak on the phone.”

Simultaneous protests

“Now the local Tibetans are protesting in the Barkhor area,” a third Tibetan source said, referring to a central area in Lhasa. “They ransacked Chinese shops and the police fired live ammunition into the crowd. No one is allowed to move around in Lhasa now.”

The rioting began around 10 a.m. Friday and by early evening Lhasa roads were blocked, stranding workers inside their office buildings, sources said.

A Han Chinese resident of Lhasa said cars and shops had been torched, while another said the situation was “very messy.”

When I looked back, all the Chinese shops were destroyed. I think not one Chinese shop is intact in the Barkhor area. All kinds of stuff were piled up on the main road and burned. Many vehicles were burned and destroyed.

Tibetan witness

Tibetan sources in the city said the protesters were burning and smashing Chinese shops and anything Chinese as they moved through the city, leaving thick black smoke billowing over Lhasa.

Protesters were running through the streets with traditional white scarves in their hands, shouting “Free Tibet,” sources said. The protests swelled to a peak early Friday amid a reduced police presence on the streets.

A third Han Chinese resident said a curfew took effect at around 1 p.m. The protests tailed off around 3:30 p.m., when large numbers of paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) were mobilized, residents said.

Rioting and ransacking

The crowd was joined by monks from the Ramoche monastery. It then proceeded to smash or burn any property with real or perceived Chinese connections, including a well-known restaurant, Tashi Delek, whose Tibetan owners are believed to be pro-China.

“Protests occurred simultaneously at several locations,” one witness said. “Hundreds of protesters were marching in several directions, including in the Barkhor area and Rangshong Jong road.”

“At one level it appeared to be a orchestrated protest, and at the same time it appeared to be very random and spontaneous, with masses of people emboldened by the relative lack of police presence on the scene,” the witness said. “So more and more Tibetans joined the frantic crowds en route. This was the biggest protest so far in Lhasa.”

Tensions in the Tibetan capital have escalated in recent days as the city’s three biggest monasteries were sealed off by thousands of armed police. Police fired tear-gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesting monks near Lhasa on Tuesday.

The protests began March 10 when hundreds of monks staged a rare demonstration on the 49th anniversary of a 1959 uprising crushed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The Dalai Lama, now 72, subsequently fled into exile in northern India.

The United States, Britain, and European governments voiced concern, with the U.S. ambassador in Beijing urging authorities to act “with restraint.”

Calls for restraint

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The Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese authorities blamed for instigating the protests, called the clashes the result of “brute force” by China to keep Tibetan under control for more than a half-century.

“I therefore appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people,” he said in a statement issued from his base in India. “I also urge my fellow Tibetans not to resort to violence.”

Original reporting in Uke, Amdo, and Kham by RFA’s Tibetan service. Additional reporting by RFA’s Mandarin service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Palden Gyal. Edited and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

China sees conspiracy behind Olympics criticisms

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China sees conspiracy behind Olympics criticisms

China said the United States is unfit to present itself as a “defender of human rights” and a senior official accused Western critics of conspiring to use the Beijing Olympic Games to subvert Communist Party rule.

The U.S. State Department’s latest report on human rights across the globe, issued this week, did not name China among the world’s very worst offenders but said its record remained “poor.”

But with Beijing due to host the Olympic Games starting August 8, focusing intense international attention on China’s often harsh restrictions on dissidents, religious groups and disgruntled citizens, officials hit back on Thursday with sarcasm and their own accusations.

“We humbly suggest that the U.S. desist from posing as a ‘defender of human rights’ and pay more attention to the United States’ own human rights record,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement issued by the official Xinhua news agency.

Tough sparring between Washington and Beijing over human rights have long been a part of the diplomatic landscape, but China’s latest angry words suggest deepening official impatience with international protests and criticisms focused on the Games.

In the ruling Communist Party’s newspaper, the former head of the State Council Information Office — the public relations arm of the central government — said he smelt conspiracy.

“Some anti-China forces in the West see the Beijing Olympic Games as a great opportunity to force China into a political transformation, and blackening the Olympics and China has become their habitual method,” Zhao Qizheng, now vice chairman of a foreign policy advisory committee, wrote in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily.

China’s controls on religion and news reporting, its problems with food safety and role in Sudan’s Darfur region “have been vastly exaggerated by the foreign media,” Zhao wrote in the front-page commentary.

Chinese officials had been too passive in the face of criticism, leaving the country’s critics to dominate news coverage, he said, urging a public diplomacy offensive.

On Thursday, China also issued its own assessment of human rights in the United States, which it said “shows the United States itself has grave violations of human rights.”

Spokesman Qin said his government issued the report to “teach the United States an extra lesson.”

The report issued by China’s State Council Information Office focused on U.S. poverty and racial divisions and called the Washington-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 the “biggest human rights tragedy” and said 660,000 people have died there as a result, nearly all of them civilians.

“This will allow all to ask just what qualifications the United States has to point fingers at other countries,” Qin said of the Chinese report, which among sources cites Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organization often critical of Chinese policy.

The widely cited observer group Iraq Body Count puts the civilian death toll at 89,300 since 2003 in its latest report.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Reporters’ Tibet Visit Shadowed by CCP Officials

Posted Apr 01 2008

By Si Yu
Epoch Times Staff
Apr 01, 2008

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Select foreign reporters were allowed into Tibet on March 26, 2008, following China’s armed crackdown on Tibetan protestors. The two-day trip was accompanied by Chinese communist officials.
On March 14, 2008 when China’s violent suppression of the Tibetan people took place, all foreign media had their equipment confiscated and were forced to leave Tibet. Two weeks later, the Chinese authorities invited a select group of foreign journalists to return to Lhasa, in order to interview some so-called “victims of criminal actions” during the protest. The interviews were to be conducted entirely under the organization and supervision of Chinese authorities.
According to the Voice of America (VOA), this group of journalists arrived in Lhasa on March 26. Journalists from 17 media organizations were selected by the Information Office of China’s State Council. The journalists came from the United States, Britain, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The group also included one Al-Jazeera reporter from Qatar and two reporters from China’s official media. However, no reporter came from the Voice of America, the BBC and other media who broadcast daily programs in Chinese. In addition, no reporter from CNN or Reuters was invited.

Tibetan Refugees (AFP/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

Japanese Reporter: ‘There Is No Objectivity’
Some foreign reporters in China pointed out that interviews organized like this cannot be comprehensive or objective. A reporter from Japan’s Tokyo Broadcasting Corporation told the VOA that they wanted their reporters conducting exclusive interviews, rather than participating in media junkets where local authorities arrange everything and no objectivity is possible.
Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference in Beijing that China’s tight restrictions on the Tibet visit were for the safety of foreign journalists. He also said that those restrictions were needed for the local government to maintain law and order.
This despite the fact that the Chinese regime assures that the situation in Tibet is now stable. “I do not understand that,” said the Japanese reporter.
Qin Gang also said that China will try to create more interview opportunities and expressed hope that reporters would interview “according to the law.”

Liu Meiyuan: Far Below Expectations of the International Community
When interviewed by AFP, Liu Meiyuan, Director of the Beijing Office of U.S. Newsweek, said, “We call for unrestricted interviews in Tibet. Clearly, [this trip] is better than no visit, but this is far below our requirements.”
Liu said that placing such restrictions on media violates the regulations for foreign reporters that the Chinese government said it would adhere to in an announcement last year. He said that this is far below what the international community would expect of a government hosting the Olympic Games.
When interviewed by The Epoch Times, Zhang Jielian, an expert on China issues, said this is a favorite ploy of the CCP. He pointed out that when allegations of organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners was made public two years ago, the CCP did not respond to inquiries at the beginning, and only after three weeks of hiding evidence, did it begin to invite international media and politicians to visit a site where atrocities were alleged to have taken place.
He pointed out that this time the same tactic will be applied: interviews will be conducted with previously selected people at a specified location on a prearranged time, under the supervision of CCP officials.
Zhang warned foreign media not to unwittingly act as a propaganda tool for CCP as they too often have in the past. This makes it easier for the CCP to violate human rights, he said.

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