Dozens dead in Tibet riots, China demands surrender

March 15th, 2008 - 11:26 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 15 (DPA) Chinese authorities Saturday deployed troops and tanks in Lhasa, demanding that Tibetan rioters surrender to police or face more serious punishment for the violence that reportedly claimed dozens of lives following escalating pro-independence protests. “We have unconfirmed reports that about 100 people have been killed and martial law imposed in Lhasa,” the Tibetan government-in-exile, based in the Indian city of Dharamsala, said in a statement.

US-based Radio Free Asia on Saturday also quoted Tibetans in Lhasa as saying up to 80 people could have died in the rioting.

“There could be about 80 dead, or more, but there is too much commotion here to give an exact number,” the broadcaster quoted one Tibetan witness as saying.

The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said at least 25 people were believed to have died around the Ramoche monastery, Jokhang temple and Thomsigkhang market in central Lhasa Friday.

“Confirmed information indicates that hundreds of Tibetans injured in yesterday’s protest are hospitalised in various hospitals for treatment,” the centre said.

State television on Saturday broadcast its first footage of the rioting, showing burning buildings and vehicles, and groups of protesters breaking into shops apparently unchallenged by police.

“The outbreak of violence died down in Lhasa Friday night, after a tumultuous day that saw windows smashed, shops robbed, a mosque burnt down and reportedly many casualties,” the government’s official Xinhua news agency said.

The agency quoted officials as saying that at least 10 “innocent civilians”, including two hotel employees and two shop owners, had died in some of the 60 fires recorded in the city Friday,

“The number of injured and other losses kept rising” and “many policemen on duty were badly injured”, it said without elaborating.

Paramilitary police rescued some 580 people, including three Japanese tourists, from banks, supermarkets, schools and hospitals that were set alight, it said.

The rioters would be treated leniently if they turned themselves in by midnight Monday, and unspecified rewards and protection would be given to anyone providing information on the violence, said a joint notice from the high court, police and state prosecutors in the Tibet.

State media quoted the notice as saying the protests against Chinese rule in Lhasa, the regional capital, since Monday were a “political conspiracy” by supporters of the exiled Dalai Lama, the highest leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

But state media reports denied that the police had opened fire on protesters and said they had only fired warning shots.

Radio Free Asia said youths attacked police and businesses run by non-Tibetans during the rioting.

“Several buildings owned by Chinese immigrants and Chinese Muslim immigrants were set on fire,” one witness told the broadcaster.

“All those shops owned by Chinese were ransacked and burned. Tibetan shop owners were told to mark their shops with scarves,” he said.

The broadcaster reported that police had “fired into the crowds” of rioters, but the government Saturday denied the charge.

“We fired no gunshots,” Xinhua quoted Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the regional government, as saying in Beijing Saturday.

The agency quoted officials as saying the police were “ordered not to use force against the attackers”.

“But they were forced to use a limited amount of tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse the desperate crowds,” it said.

Friday’s rioting followed protests by Tibetan monks that began Monday, the 49th anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule that was crushed by troops.

The protests have since spread to several other monasteries in other Tibetan areas of China.

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