China detains 100s in Tibet capital

2012-05-31 09:05

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Beijing - Hundreds of people have been detained in Lhasa after two men set themselves on fire in the Tibetan regional capital on Sunday in protest against Chinese rule, a US-based broadcaster reported.

Radio Free Asia said Chinese security forces had rounded up hundreds of residents and pilgrims in the wake of the immolations, the first significant protest in the heavily guarded city since deadly anti-government riots in 2008.

It quoted a local source as saying about 600 Tibetans had been detained and those from outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) had been expelled.

At the time of the protest, Lhasa was filled with Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims who had travelled to the city to celebrate Saga Dawa - the anniversary of Buddha's birth.

The two protesters, who were both from outside the TAR, set themselves on fire in front of the famed Jokhang Temple, a popular pilgrimage destination in the centre of Lhasa.

Police immediately put out the flames and one of the two men survived, according to state news agency Xinhua. His current whereabouts are not known.

Sunday's incident was the first of its kind in the Tibetan capital, which has been under tight security since deadly anti-Chinese government riots broke out there in 2008.

Residents of Lhasa said the city was under even tighter security than usual following Sunday's protest, with police and paramilitary officers out in force.

Identity checks

One resident contacted by AFP on Monday said police were carrying out identity checks in the streets and that mobile telephone signals had been blocked.

Free Tibet, a London-based campaign group, also said it had received reports that Tibetan residents in Lhasa had been arbitrarily detained in the wake of the protest.

Tibetans have long chafed under China's rule over the vast Tibetan plateau, saying that Beijing has curbed religious freedoms and their culture is being eroded by an influx of Han Chinese, the country's main ethnic group.

Beijing insists that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and have benefited from improved living standards brought on by China's economic expansion.
Mother of three
Meanwhile, AP reported on Thursday that a Tibetan mother of three has died in the latest in a recent wave of self-immolations to protest Chinese rule.

The woman set herself on fire outside a Buddhist monastery Won ednesday afternoon in an ethnically Tibetan region of western Sichuan province.

She died at the scene, according to London-based Free Tibet and US government-backed broadcaster Radio Free Asia.

That would mark at least the 35th Tibetan self-immolation since March of last year to draw attention to China's restrictions on Buddhism and call for the return from exile of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Chinese authorities have confirmed some of the self-immolations but not all.

Read more on:    china  |  self-immolations
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