M A I N   N E W S

Lhasa violence spreads
Protesters torch Sichuan police station

Beijing, March 16
Rioting erupted in a province neighbouring Tibet today, two days after violent protests by Tibetans against Chinese rule in Lhasa. “They’ve gone crazy,” said a police officer in Aba county, Sichuan, one of four provinces with large Tibetan populations, her voice trembling down the telephone as the main government building there came under siege.

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 Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said on website that at least seven persons had been shot dead in the protests. However, a police officer, reached by telephone, denied this.

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.

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, when China wants to showcase prosperity and unity.

The government-in-exile in Dharamsala said 80 persons 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.

Tibet is one of several potential flashpoints for the ruling Communist Party at a time of heightened attention on China. The government is concerned about the effect of inflation and wealth gaps on social stability after years of breakneck economic growth, and this month it said it had foiled two plots by Uighur militants in the large Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang, including an attempt to disrupt the Olympics.

Kang Xiaoguang, a political scientist at the People’s University of China who has long studied social stability, said there was very little chance of the Tibetan protests sparking a chain reaction in broader China.

“I think the chances are minimal,” he said of the possibility of copycat protests. “This is a localised problem. In the Han Chinese regions there’s virtually zero sympathy for the Tibetan rioters, and so virtually zero chance that this will spread.”

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. But a businessman, reached by telephone, told Reuters: “It’s dead silent. There are a few kids and people beginning to walk around, but mostly people are staying inside.”

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, in a statement, urged the Chinese government to exercise restraint in dealing with the protests and expressed concern over reports of a “sharply increased” police and military presence in and around Lhasa .

European nations, Australia and China’s close neighbour Japan have also voiced concern.

Streets protests continued in several parts of the world as part of the stir launched to mark the 49th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against the 57-year Chinese rule in the Himalayan region.

About 100 Tibetan exiles in Japan ran through a central Tokyo park relaying a parallel Olympic torch or “Tibetan Olympics” torch while shouting “Free Tibet” and “China, get out.”

In the US, several people, including five police officers, were injured when a protest against suppression of Tibetans in Lhasa outside the Chinese Consulate in midtown Manhattan turned violent.

Protesters carrying red, blue and yellow flags clashed with police when they tried to barge in the consulate complex yesterday. The police said many people were arrested but did not reveal the number.

A rattled China whipped up its campaign against the “Dalai clique”, whom the Tibetan government has accused of having “masterminded” the riots, roping in key religious figures in the Himalayan region.

The 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu condemned the riots, saying “sabotage acts” ran counter to the Buddhism tenets and pledged support to the ruling Communist Party of China and the government to ensure the safety and stability.

“The rioters’ acts not only harmed the interests of the nation and the people, but also violated the aim of Buddhism,” 18-year old Panchen, the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, said. — Agencies



We want autonomy, not separation: Dalai Lama
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Thus He Spake

  • The Chinese action in Tibet is a “cultural genocide”.
  • The recent protests are a manifestation of the frustration simmering in the hearts of the Tibetans for the past many years.
  • I can’t dictate people’s movement in a democratic society and being a servant of the people, I wholeheartedly stand by their cause.
  • Tibet is facing a serious danger. Whether China admits it or not, there is a problem.
  • I’m not against hosting Olympics in Beijing, but China should be reminded to play a good host and respect human rights.

McLeodganj, March 16
The Dalai Lama today reiterated that he was only demanding autonomy for Tibet, and not separation from China. “We support building a harmonious society on the basis of mutual trust and a meaningful autonomy safeguarding local culture and environment,” he said.

He was addressing mediapersons at the main temple complex here.

Demanding a probe by an international agency into the current unrest and violence in Tibet, he has called upon the Tibetan community living in his homeland not to resort to violent activities.

He denied Chinese allegations that he was behind violence in Tibet. He said it was the result of anguish and frustration simmering in the hearts of the Tibetans for the past many years that was fuelled by the Chinese authorities.

He expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Tibet and hoped the problem would be peacefully resolved with the intervention of the international community.

When asked about whether he supported the ongoing protests in Tibet, he said he was wholeheartedly with the people of his homeland, provided they did not get involved in violent activities. “I can’t dictate people’s movement in a democratic society and being a servant of the people, I wholeheartedly stand by their cause”, he said.

He said the things now seemed to have worsened and the command had come into the hands of the masses and it was up to them to decide their course of action. “I am already in a semi-retirement position and my advice is not always acceptable to them,” he added.

When asked about whether the Chinese crackdown on Tibetan protesters would hamper the peace process, he called on Prof Samdong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, to answer the question. He said, “The present crisis is definitely a setback to the peace talks.”

On the issue of Monday’s deadline to the protesting Tibetans to surrender, the Dalai Lama said he was in a helpless situation. “I can only appeal to the international community to intervene into the issue and persuade China for a peaceful way out to save protesters from the atrocities of the Chinese authorities,” he said.

He described the Chinese action against the people in Tibet as “cultural genocide”. “Tibet is facing a serious danger. Whether China admits or not, there is a problem,” he said.

He said he was not against hosting Olympics in Beijing. “China is a big nation having one of the oldest cultures of the world and it deserves to host these games,” he said. “But the international community has the moral responsibility to remind China to be a good host for the Olympics and respect human rights and other cultures of the world.”



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |