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Tibetan with family in Lhasa says cars on fire in Tibet in latest protest

March 14, 2008

BEIJING: March 14 (AP): Police cars have been set on fire Friday in
the center of Lhasa as hundreds of people join in the latest protest
by monks against Chinese rule in Tibet, a Tibetan woman said.

"The police cars were set on fire in the center of city," said the
woman, who has family in the city.

The violence was the latest in a series of protests inside and outside
Tibet which have put an unwelcome spotlight on China's policies in
Tibet in the lead-up to this summer's Olympic games in Beijing.
Tibetan exiles have also held high-profile protests in northern India.

The violence comes as Buddhist monks started a hunger strike and two
others attempted suicide as troops surrounded monasteries in a
government crackdown on the widespread protests, a U.S-funded radio
service said.

The woman said monks set the police cars on fire after a demonstration
near a small temple in Lhasa was stopped by police. She said the
protest was still going on.

"The monks are still protesting. Police and army cars were burned.
There are people crying," said the woman. "Hundreds of people,
including monks and civilians are in the protest."

Tensions in the Tibetan capital have increased in recent days as the
city's three biggest monasteries were sealed off by thousands of
soldiers and armed police amid the largest protests in nearly two
decades.

Officials who answered phones at police and Communist Party offices in
Tibet on Friday said they had no information about the violence and
refused to comment

Radio Free Asia said two monks from the Drepung monastery on the
outskirts of Lhasa were in critical condition after slashing their
wrists Thursday.

"There are many other monks who hurt themselves in desperation," an
unnamed source told RFA.

Monks at a second major monastery launched a hunger strike Thursday to
demand that armed police withdraw from the monastery grounds and
detained monks be released, RFA reported.

"The monks in Sera Monastery are observing a hunger strike inside the
premises," an unidentified source told RFA. "They vowed not to eat or
sleep unless their demands are met."

Large-scale demonstrations that began Monday have spread to a third
monastery, Ganden, in the Lhasa area, as well as the Reting monastery
north of the city, according to RFA and the London-based International
Campaign for Tibet.

The ICT said monks from the Ganden monastery mounted protests
Thursday, becoming the last of the three historically important
monasteries known as the "Three Pillars of Tibet" to join in the
demonstrations.

Thousands of troops and armed police in Lhasa have placed the three
monasteries under a virtual lockdown, according to the ICT and other
witnesses. The monasteries have been sealed off to tourists, tour
operators told the ICT.

Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically a part of China. But many
Tibetans argue the Himalayan region was virtually independent for
centuries and accuse China of trying to crush Tibetan culture by
swamping it with Han people, the majority Chinese ethnic group.

It is extremely difficult to get independent verification of events in
Tibet since China maintains rigid control over the area. Foreigners
need special travel permits, and journalists are rarely granted access
except under highly controlled circumstances.

The protests by the Buddhist monks began Monday, the anniversary of
the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule.

In northern India, organizers say more than 100 Tibetan exiles began a
two-week detention after police arrested them during a march to their
homeland to protest China's hosting of the Olympic Games.

March coordinator Tenzin Palkyi said Friday the exiles are being kept
in detention in a state-run hotel while authorities investigate the
charges of threatening the "peace and tranquility" of the region.

Local officials were not immediately available for comment.
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