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Tibet burns as protesters defy police

March 15, 2008

Beijing,  March 15 (Reuters): At least a dozen people were injured and
shops and cars set alight during violent protests in Tibet's capital
of Lhasa.

Hundreds of people had again taken to Lhasa's streets in defiance of
Chinese authorities and despite a heavy police presence and reports of
a lockdown of monasteries, sources said.

The US embassy said it had received reports of gunfire in Lhasa and
advised its citizens to stay indoors.

"The police are everywhere," said one cafe owner in Lhasa. "There are
big problems."

Chinese rule in remote, Buddhist Tibet has become a focus for critics
in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, and marches around the world
this week to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against
communist rule have spilled into Tibet itself.

A report from China's Xinhua news agency quoted witnesses saying that
a number of shops were burnt and nearby businesses closed.

Yesterday 300 to 400 residents and monks demonstrated in Lhasa, a
source quoted a witness as saying, capping a week of daily protests
led by the Buddhist clergy, an echo of the anti-government protests
that rocked neighbouring Burma last year.

"Some are angry and some are scared. The security forces are checking
houses to see if any monks are hiding," said the source, who is in
touch with Tibetan residents.

Hundreds of monks from the Labrang monastery in the north-western
Chinese province of Gansu led a march through the town of Xiahe, the
Free Tibet Campaign said, citing sources in Dharamsala, the Indian
home to Tibet's government-in-exile.

More than 10 monks had been arrested and tanks were patrolling the
square near Lhasa's Potala Palace, the person said, referring to the
former winter residence of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
"It's very chaotic … all the police have come out," said one Lhasa
resident. "The monks and nuns have been marching and protesting," the
woman said, adding residents were afraid to go out.

"People have been burning cars and motorbikes and buses. There is
smoke everywhere and they have been throwing rocks and breaking
windows. We're scared," another resident said.

An American witness in Lhasa told BBC World he saw Chinese troops
kicking and beating Tibetan protesters at the temple. He said he saw
troop carriers arriving with soldiers in camouflage gear carrying
guns.

A businesswoman surnamed Xia said: "It's martial law … There are
People's Armed Police out, and they've been fighting the lamas."
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