Riot erupts in Tibetan capital

March 14th, 2008 - 5:24 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 14 (DPA) Violence erupted Friday in the centre of Tibet’s capital Lhasa as the government deployed paramilitary riot police to control protests initiated by Buddhist monks, witnesses said. The protestors beat at least three firefighters and several police officers and tore down a Chinese national flag in the square outside Lhasa’s Jokhang temple, the holiest site in the city for Tibetan Buddhists, a witness said.

The witness said she saw three fire trucks in flames and protestors overturn and set fire to a police car.

Six or seven truckloads of paramilitary police were sent to the square with some personnel in protective riot gear, she said.

Groups of monks, students and other lay Tibetans ran towards the police and attacked them with sticks and stones, forcing the officers to retreat from the square, she said.

A worker at Jokhang confirmed that a large protest had taken place outside the temple.

“Yes, there was a protest outside this morning,” the worker said.

“Now the Jokhang is closed, so we can’t go out and people can’t come in,” he said.

Friday’s riot came amid reports of escalating unrest in Lhasa and at major monasteries in the region with reports of paramilitary reinforcements sent to control several of the monasteries.

US-based Radio Free Asia reported Friday that two monks were in critical condition after apparently attempting suicide during the protests.

The monks from Drepung monastery on the edge of Lhasa slit their wrists and stabbed themselves in the chest earlier this week, witnesses told the broadcaster.

Monks from Sera monastery in Lhasa have begun a hunger strike as Chinese troops surrounded the three largest monasteries in the city in a government crackdown on the protests, Radio Free Asia reported. The monasteries are now off-limits to tourists.

The protests have since spread to Ganden monastery and to Reting monastery north of the city, the broadcaster said.

The protests apparently began Monday, the 49th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule that was crushed by troops.

The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s highest leader, fled to India after the uprising.

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