Details of Tibetan unrest in China emerge
Luding - A Tibetan-inhabited region of China appeared to be under lockdown on
Thursday after it was rocked by deadly clashes, as exile groups gave grisly
details of how the unrest unfolded.
The west of Sichuan province, which has big populations of ethnic Tibetans,
many of whom complain of repression, was earlier this week hit by some of the
worst unrest since huge protests against Chinese rule in 2008.
Security forces fired into two separate crowds of protesters on Monday and
Tuesday in the remote prefecture of Ganzi, which borders Tibet, killing at
least two people and wounding several others.
By Thursday, affected areas in Ganzi appeared to be under lockdown. Phone calls
would not go through, the internet was cut off and people's movements
restricted as police poured into the region, locals and advocacy groups said.
But the US-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), which has local and
exiled contacts, was still able to glean details from sources of what happened
in Seda town - the scene of a deadly shooting on Tuesday.
The official Xinhua news agency, citing local authorities, said one
"rioter" was killed and another injured and that police had to resort
to lethal force after a violent mob attacked them with knives, gasoline bottles
ICT, however, had a different version of events. It said hundreds of
Tibetans had gathered peacefully on the town square and that after some time,
armed police fired tear gas and started shooting into the crowd.
"Tibetans were running everywhere to escape... Some couldn't run away
because they were too seriously injured," the group quoted an exile source
with contacts in the area as saying.
Other sources said the square was "covered in blood" with tear gas
canisters scattered in the street after the shooting.
The incident came a day after police shot at a crowd of Tibetans protesting
against religious repression in the nearby town of Luhuo, killing at least two
and wounding more than 30, locals and rights groups said.
China's foreign ministry, however, said the Luhuo protesters were also
violent. On Tuesday, spokesperson Hong Lei accused "overseas secessionist
groups" of trying to discredit the government by hyping accounts of what
The unrest comes at a time of rising tensions in Tibetan-inhabited areas,
where at least 16 people have set themselves ablaze in less than a year - including
four this month alone - prompting an increase in security.
On Thursday, dozens of police cars and buses were seen winding their way up
the snowy, mountainous road towards Luhuo and Seda from the provincial capital
of Chengdu, AFP reporters witnessed.
"They had come down to Chengdu to celebrate the new year, but have to
go back before the end of the holiday due to the unrest," said Zhou Ming,
a driver who often takes the same route.
Zhou said he was unable to call any of his friends in the affected areas on
their mobiles or on their fixed lines.
Contacts in Luhuo such as monks at Drakgo Monastery - located just 1km away
from the scene of Monday's protest - were also unavailable on Thursday.
Calls made to 19 different hotels, restaurants, book shops, companies and
shops in Luhuo were met with a rapid beeping tone, suggesting phone lines in
the town may have been disabled.
In Seda, calls to 15 hotels and restaurants were also met with the same ring
Advocacy groups said Tibetans were not allowed to move freely in Seda,
adding the area was now completely locked down, with some sources reporting at
least 40 military trucks arriving in the town.