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Chinese troops use teargas to halt Tibet monks' second day of protest

March 13, 2008

The Times
12 March 2008

Thousands of Chinese paramilitary police and troops have been deployed
across the Tibetan capital after hundreds of monks tried to stage a
second protest in two days.

Witnesses described helmeted soldiers firing teargas yesterday to try
to disperse more than 600 monks as they attempted to march out of the
Sera monastery on the edge of Lhasa. The monks were forced to halt
virtually at the gates of the monastery, after police at a station
just outside the main entrance called in the military.

The monks, shouting "Release our people", demanded the return of 11
monks detained on Monday after staging an anti-Chinese protest in
front of the Jokhang Temple — the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism —
in the heart of the city. That protest coincided with demonstrations
by about 500 monks from the sprawling Drepung monastery just outside

The demonstrations demanding Tibetan independence and showing support
for the exiled Dalai Lama are the largest in the restive region since
authorities imposed martial law after riots by anti-Chinese protesters
rocked Lhasa in March 1989.

Some 600 monks from Sera refused for several hours to return to their
quarters, witnesses said. It appeared that the security forces were
reluctant to take more-violent measures too disperse the monks because
of their large numbers and because many Tibetans living near by had
gathered in a show of support for the demonstrators.

The demonstrations coincide with a series of marches around the world
to commemorate the 49th anniversary on Monday of an uprising against
Chinese rule in the remote Himalayan region when the Dalai Lama and
many followers fled into exile in India.

Facing the ranks of soldiers and police, the monks continued to shout
slogans such as, "We want human rights and freedom", one Tibetan
source said.

Clearly rattled by the bold display of opposition, Chinese authorities
have ordered the closure of the north face of Mount Everest to
expeditions until after the Olympic torch is carried up to its peak in
early May. The expedition web portal posted a copy of a notice from
the Mountaineering Association of the Tibet Autonomous Region asking
climbers to delay their ascents.

The notice, dated March 10, said: "Concern over heavy climbing
activities, crowded climbing routes and increasing environmental
pressures will cause potential safety problems in Qomalangma [Everest]
areas. We are not able to accept your expedition, so please postpone
your climbing."

The order coincides with the annual climbing season, which is in
April, May and the first weeks of June.

Chinese officials had said previously that the north face of the
mountain, which straddles the border between Tibet and Nepal, would
remain open. They could now be concerned that international activists
may try to use the occasion of the arrival of the Olympic torch to
stage some kind of demonstration on the world's highest mountain. Last
April, four protesters at the Everest base camp on the Tibetan side
unfurled a banner reading, "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008" —
referring to the official games slogan. The group was deported.
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