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New unrest in Lhasa despite security crackdown

March 31, 2008

ICT report, March 29, 2008

Despite the military crackdown and high levels of fear and intimidation
in Lhasa, new unrest broke out today in the Barkhor area of the capital
after armed police moved into the area in force.

Although full details could not be confirmed, reliable reports indicated
that a new protest occurred involving many Tibetans, possibly linked to
an attempt by armed police to detain Tibetans in the Tibetan
neighborhood around the Ramoche and Jokhang temples in central Lhasa.

Panic and fear broke out on Saturday afternoon (March 29) after armed
police moved in to check the identity papers of people in the area where
rioting began on March 14, according to reliable sources. A "melee"
broke out and people "started running in all directions, and shouting".
Tibetan shops in the area were closed down, and armed police surrounded
the areas around the Ramoche and Jokhang temples. According to several
other reports, more Tibetans staged a peaceful protest.

According to several sources, a text message sent to cellphone users in
Lhasa yesterday afternoon by the Lhasa Municipal Police confirmed the
security checks and climate of fear, as well as warning citizens to
"obey the law". A translation of the text message sent to ICT said: "On
the afternoon of 29th in our city, as the security department were
carrying out checks, this caused some frightened citizens whose
identification [documents] are not clear to run away….Please obey the
law and please follow the rules, don't create rumors, don't believe

The incident occurred as a 15-member group of diplomats from countries
including the USA, Japan, and Slovenia were leaving Lhasa after a
stage-managed and controlled visit at the invitation of the Chinese
government. It appears the diplomats left Lhasa just prior to the
protests and unrest, and before the authorities tightened security still
further in the Jokhang area. Embassies contacted by phone indicated that
the foreign visitors had not witnessed any unrest during the visit. It
is not clear whether the protest was linked to the visit of the
diplomats, whose movements were tightly restricted by the authorities;
some ICT sources indicated that Tibetans were aware of the
delegation’s presence in Lhasa.

On Thursday, images of monks from the Jokhang temple speaking in open
defiance of the crackdown to journalists about the lack of religious
freedom in Tibet were broadcast around the world. The current
whereabouts of the monks is unknown.
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