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Chinese police fire tear gas at Tibetan Buddhist monk protesters

March 13, 2008

BEIJING: March 12 (AP) Chinese police used tear gas to disperse
several hundred Tibetan Buddhist monks who gathered for a second day
of protests near the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, U.S. government-funded
Radio Free Asia reported Wednesday.

More than 1,000 armed police and security personnel surrounded an
estimated 500 to 600 monks from the Sera monastery Tuesday as they
marched near a police station, and police fired tear gas into the
crowd, one witness told the RFA's Tibetan service.

"There were probably a couple of thousand armed police, (public
security bureau) personnel, wearing different uniforms. Police fired
tear gas into the crowd," the unidentified witness said.

The monks, who had been on their way to demand the release of fellow
monks detained in protests Monday, shouted "We want freedom," "We want
an independent Tibet!" and "Free our people or we won't go back!"
according to other unidentified witnesses.

A woman who answered the phone at the public security bureau in Lhasa
denied knowledge of the incident. At the local government office, a
man who identified himself as Bianba said he was aware that an
incident took place Tuesday, but would not give further details.

The latest incident came a day after Buddhist monks staged two major
protests in a bold, public challenge to China's rule, using the
anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule in 1959.

Several hundred monks from the Drepung monastery began their march
Monday afternoon, splitting into three groups heading in different
directions, an eyewitness monk told the Free Tibet Campaign, another
advocacy group.

One group shouted "Free Tibet" as they walked until they were broken
up at a checkpoint and dragged away from each other by police, he
said. Some of the monks were arrested while those who were not
returned to the monastery around midnight, he said.

RFA also reported gunshots were heard overnight from the direction of
the monastery, which remains blocked off by police.

Champa Phuntsok, the head of the Tibetan regional government,
confirmed Tuesday authorities briefly detained some monks from Drepung
monastery, but said they were released shortly afterward after being
questioned and "counseled."

Radio Free Asia and phayul.com Web site, which is run by Tibetan
exiles, said as many as 71 people, mostly monks, were detained
following the Monday protests.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang also confirmed Tuesday there had
been protests. "Some ignorant monks in Lhasa abetted by a small
handful of people did some illegal things that can challenge the
social stability," he told a news conference.

Monks in two more monasteries in northwestern Qinghai province — the
Lutsang monastery and Ditsa monastery — also staged protests on
Monday, RFA said, quoting "sources." Police surrounded the Ditsa
monastery during the protest but did not intervene or detain anyone.

The protests in Tibet came as several hundred Tibetan exiles defied
police orders against a march to Tibet from Dharmsala, India, where
their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has presided over a
government-in-exile since the abortive 1959 uprising.

The march aimed to protest the Beijing Olympics. Indian police said it
violated an agreement between New Delhi and the Tibetan
government-in-exile.

The march has not been publicly endorsed by either the exile
government or the Dalai Lama, who at a separate event in India accused
China of "unimaginable and gross violations of human rights" in the
Himalayan region.
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