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Chinese troops parade handcuffed Tibetan prisoners in trucks

March 18, 2008

Jane Macartney in Beijing
TIMES Online
March 17, 2008

China blocks internet access over coverage of protests

The Chinese Army drove through the streets of Lhasa today parading
dozens of Tibetan prisoners in handcuffs, their heads bowed, as troops
stepped up their hunt for the rioters in house-to-house searches.

As the midnight deadline approached for rioters to surrender, four
trucks in convoy made a slow progress along main roads, with about 40
people, mostly young Tibetan men and women, standing with their wrists
handcuffed behind their backs, witnesses said.

A soldier stood behind each prisoner, hands on the back of their necks
to ensure their heads were bowed.

Loudspeakers on the trucks broadcast calls to anyone who had taken part
in the violent riots on Friday — in which Han Chinese and Hui Muslims
were stabbed and beaten and shops and business set on fire — to turn
themselves in. Those who gave themselves up might be treated with
leniency, the rest would face severe punishment, the broadcasts said.

The worst violence in 20 years in the deeply Buddhist Himalayan region
has drawn a tough response from the Government, facing severe
embarrassment as the riots threaten to tarnish its image of unity and
stability only five months before it plays host to the Olympic Games in

Claims and counterclaims from Chinese officials and Tibetan exiles over
the number of casualties and a ban on foreign journalists in Tibet have
resulted in much confusion.

Champa Phuntsok, the ethnic Tibetan governor of the Tibet Autonomous
Region, said that the demonstrations had left 16 dead and dozens
wounded. Unconfirmed reports from Tibetan exile groups put the death
toll at 80 — a claim he denied.

The governor said: “No country would allow those offenders or criminals
to escape the arm of justice and China is no exception.”

Speaking in Beijing, where he is attending the annual session of China’s
rubber-stamp parliament, the governor said that shops, schools,
hospitals and banks had been attacked and bystanders beaten and set on fire.

“If these people turn themselves in, they will be treated with leniency
within the framework of the law. If these people could provide further
information about the involvement of other people in those crimes, then
they could be treated even more leniently . . . [otherwise] we will deal
with them harshly.”

The search for those involved began in earnest in Lhasa today, as office
workers trickled back to work after a weekend of fear when most dared
not go outside.

Soldiers began house-to-house searches, checking all identification
papers, residents said. Anyone unable to show an identity card and a
household registration permitting residence in Lhasa was being taken away.

They described people laying out all their papers on a table in their
homes. One said: “The soldiers come in and check that the number of
people in each house equals the number of identity cards. Anyone extra
may be taken away.”

At government offices and work units, leaders were required to do a roll
call of all employees and to account for anyone missing, as the
authorities tried to track down those involved in the violence.

A notice from the Lhasa Municipal Procuratorate said: “Criminals who do
not surrender by the deadline will be treated severely in accordance
with the law.”

The unrest has spilt over rapidly into neighbouring provinces in China
with a large ethnic Tibetan population. Tibetan students at the
NorthWest Minorities University in Lanzhou staged an all-night sit-in at
a school sports field before dispersing this morning.

In the nearby town of Hezuo, in northwestern Gansu province, several
dozen students from the Hezuo School of Hygiene took to the streets to
demonstrate in sympathy for Tibetans in Lhasa but were quickly dispersed
by police, school officials said.

The unrest in Tibet began when monks took to the streets on the March 10
anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, when the Dalai Lama
fled into exile in India with tens of thousands Tibetans.

Beijing has repeatedly said that the violence was engineered by
supporters of the Dalai Lama. He is still the region's widely revered
spiritual leader and one of the figures most reviled by China’s
communist leadership.
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