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Chinese Police Fire Tear-Gas at Protesting Tibetan Monks

March 13, 2008

Radio Free Asia
KATHMANDU, March 12 (RFA) —Armed Chinese police fired tear-gas Tuesday
to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesting Tibetan Buddhist
monks near the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, RFA's Tibetan service reports.

It was the second day of protests by monks around a key Tibetan
anniversary, after hundreds of monks from a major monastery staged a
rare demonstration March 10 that was stopped by police.

"There were probably a couple of thousand armed police, PSB personnel,
wearing different uniforms. Police fired tear-gas into the crowd," one
witness told RFA's Tibetan service. PSB denotes the China's Public
Security Bureau.

The monks, estimated at 500 to 600, left Sera monastery around 3 p.m.
March 11 to demand the release of fellow Sera monks detained for
protesting a day earlier. They shouted slogans as they walked,
witnesses said, including, "We want freedom!" "Free our people!" "We
want an independent Tibet!" and "Free our people or we won't go back!"

"When they arrived at the police station near the monastery, they were
stopped by armed police who had been dispatched to guard the area,"
one witness said. On Tuesday, "They didn't return to the monastery
until around 9:30 p.m."

Authoritative sources in the area also described hearing gunshots
overnight from the general direction of Drepung monastery, with all
roads to the monastery blocked by police.

Fifty to 60 monks from Drepung monastery outside Lhasa were detained
Monday as they tried to walk the roughly 10-km (5-mile) route from
Drepung to the city center.

They were marching in a group of some 300 Drepung monks on the 49th
anniversary of an uprising crushed by the Chinese People's Liberation
Army.

Detainees named

Sources said the monks planned to protest at the Potala Palace in the
heart of Lhasa to demand the release of monks detained last October
shortly after the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, received a
Congressional Gold Medal in Washington.

Witnesses meanwhile said 11 protesters, including the nine monks from
Sera monastery whose detention prompted the protest on Tuesday, were
severely beaten Monday when People's Armed Police pushed through a
crowd to detain them outside the Tsuklakhang cathedral in central
Lhasa. Whether and where they remained in custody on Tuesday was
unclear.

The 11 detainees were identified as: Lobsang Ngodrub, Lobsang Sherab,
Lodroe, Sonam Lodroe, Lobsang, Tsultrim Palden, Geleg, Pema Karwang,
Zoepa, Thubdron, and Phurdan. No further details were available.

Lhasa neighborhood committees meanwhile mobilized to inspect every
household in predominantly Tibetan areas of the city, searching for
unregistered monks or nuns sheltering illicitly in private homes,
sources told RFA's Tibetan service.

Monks in two more monasteries in Qinghai province—Lutsang monastery in
Mangra (in Chinese, Guinan) county, and Ditsa monastery in Bayan (in
Chinese, Hualong) county—also staged protests Monday, sources said.
Armed police surrounded Ditsa monastery during the protest but neither
intervened nor detained anyone there, the sources said.

March 10, 2008, marked the 49th anniversary of a 1959 uprising crushed
by the Chinese People's Liberation Army. The Dalai Lama, now 72,
subsequently fled into exile in northern India.

Drepung, founded in the 15th century, is one of largest monasteries in
Tibet and ranks as one of the most important in the Gelukpa school of
Tibetan Buddhism.

Tensions have been escalating in recent years in traditionally Tibetan
areas of what is now western China, with Chinese authorities taking a
tougher line against what they regard as ethnic "splittism," or
resistance to Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama is regarded by China as a dangerous figure seeking
independence for his homeland, although he says he wants only autonomy
and for Chinese repression of Tibetans to end.

China's official news agency, Xinhua, Tuesday quoted a top official
from the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as saying the local government
properly handled the monks' protest, with everyone "persuaded to leave
in peace."

"More than 300 lamas entered the city proper of Lhasa in groups on
March 10, but were later persuaded to leave in peace. No disturbance
to social stability was caused," Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet
Autonomous Regional Government, was quoted as saying.

The lamas had entered Lhasa "under the instigation of certain
individuals," he said. "To prevent unnecessary disturbances from
happening, we did some persuasion and they all left in peace," he
added.
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