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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China admits shooting protesters in self-defence

March 22, 2008

 From Friday's Globe and Mail
March 21, 2008

BEIJING — China has admitted for the first time that its police have
opened fire on Tibetan protesters, but it insisted yesterday that the
gunfire was in self-defence.

China's state-run news agency, Xinhua, said police shot and wounded four
protesters in the Tibetan region of Aba in Sichuan province last Sunday.
It did not acknowledge any deaths.

Until yesterday, China had denied using any lethal weapons against
protesters, and had not even acknowledged that the protests had spread
to provinces outside Tibet.

China has prohibited foreign journalists and tourists from visiting
Tibet and the ethnically Tibetan regions of western China, saying that
the ban is for the "safety and security" of the foreigners.

Graphic photos provided by Tibetan activists have shown several
blood-stained corpses of Tibetans reportedly shot to death by Chinese
security forces in Sichuan last weekend. Tibet's government-in-exile has
said that nearly 100 protesters have been killed by Chinese security
forces since the protests erupted last week. China has said only that 16
people, almost entirely "innocent civilians," were killed during riots
in Lhasa last week.

In recent days, China has conducted house-to-house searches and detained
hundreds of people in Lhasa. Yesterday it announced that it will file
criminal charges against 24 people for "endangering national security"
and other charges including assault, looting and arson. It said 170
people have surrendered to police.

China is continuing to boost its military presence in its Tibetan
regions, with thousands more soldiers reported to be arriving in Lhasa
yesterday. Some analysts say the Tibetan capital is essentially under
martial rule, although China has not officially declared martial law.

The BBC reported that more than 400 troop carriers and other military
vehicles were seen heading toward Tibet on a main road yesterday.
Soldiers and police are a heavy presence in almost every Tibetan district.

"From my window, I can see several hundred soldiers and police standing
in the street," Langyi, an elderly Tibetan in the Aba region of Sichuan,
said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Another Tibetan said the residents of Aba have been allowed to go
outside their homes, but they are prohibited from travelling to other towns.

At the famed Labrang monastery in Gansu province, a 26-year-old Tibetan
monk said there are few people in the streets. He said the monks were
banned from leaving the monastery. "There is no freedom here," he said
by telephone. "There are many police and soldiers here. We hope they
leave, so that we can move freely. The police have warned residents not
to go outside."

The monk said he was afraid to give details of what happened in the
clashes between protesters and security forces this week.

An independent group, Reporters Without Borders, said the last two
foreign journalists were expelled from Tibet yesterday. They were
reporting for German and Austrian publications. The group also said that
Chinese authorities are banning Internet users from discussing "Tibetan
events." It said it had obtained an "announcement from the Internet
Surveillance Bureau" in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province, which
says it is "forbidden to post, circulate or discuss reports about
Tibetan events."

World leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are urging China
to show restraint toward the Tibetan protesters. "Canada calls upon
China to fully respect human rights and peaceful protest," Mr. Harper
said in a statement yesterday.

Similar statements were issued in the United States and Britain. "We
call on China to release monks and others who have been detained solely
for the peaceful expression of their views," said Condoleezza Rice, the
U.S. Secretary of State.

The Dalai Lama said he would be willing to meet Chinese President Hu
Jintao or other Chinese leaders to discuss a resolution to the Tibetan
issue. He repeated his long-standing pledge that he is not seeking
independence for Tibet.

"The Tibetan problem must be solved between Tibetan people and Chinese
people," he told reporters at the headquarters of his
government-in-exile in India. "The whole world knows Dalai Lama is not
seeking independence, 100 times, 1,000 times I have repeated this. It is
my mantra: We are not seeking independence."
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