Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

China sets deadline for rioters to surrender

March 16, 2008

BEIJING, March 15 (Reuters) - China set a "surrender deadline," listed
deaths and showed the first extensive television footage of rioting in
Lhasa on Saturday, signaling a crackdown after the worst unrest in
Tibet for two decades.

But a source close to the Tibetan self-proclaimed government-in-exile
suggested China's official death toll of 10, which comes just months
before the Beijing Olympics, may not tell the full story.

Xinhua news agency said the 10 "innocent civilians" died in fires that
accompanied bitter clashes in the remote, mountain capital on Friday.
It said no foreigners died but gave few other details, and the report
could not be verified.

The source close to the Tibetan exile administration in India said at
least five Tibetan protesters were shot dead by troops, and other
groups supporting Tibetan independence have claimed many more may have
died.

"Law enforcement authorities in China's Tibet Autonomous Region issued
a notice on Saturday ... demanding the lawbreakers to give themselves
in by Monday midnight, and promised that mitigation and leniency would
be given to those who surrender," Xinhua said.

China has accused followers of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the
Dalai Lama, of masterminding the rioting, which has scarred its image
of national harmony in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics and
already sparked talk of a boycott.

The Olympic torch is to arrive in Lhasa in a matter of weeks.

Tibetan crowds in the remote mountain city attacked government
offices, burnt vehicles and shops and threw stones at police on Friday
in bloody confrontations that left many injured.

A Reuters picture showed a protester setting fire to bicycles and a
Chinese national flag. Another depicted security personnel shielding
themselves against rocks hurled by protesters.

Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising over Lhasa and
individual buildings ablaze.

Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government,
told reporters in Beijing that Tibetan authorities had not fired any
shots to quell the violence in Lhasa, which Xinhua said had "reverted
to calm."

But the International Campaign for Tibet, a group that supports
demands for Tibetan autonomy, cited unconfirmed reports of scores of
Tibetans killed and hundreds of local university students arrested.

John Ackerly of the group said in an e-mailed statement he feared
"hundreds of Tibetans have been arrested and are being interrogated
and tortured."

Residents of Lhasa waited anxiously in homes and closed shops on
Saturday, wondering if the day would bring fresh confrontation.

"It's quite tense still," said one hostel manager who requested
anonymity, as did other residents spoken to.

"We don't dare go outside, so I can't tell you what's happening," said one.

Xinhua said its reporters in Lhasa on Friday saw many rioters
"carrying backpacks filled with stones and bottles of inflammable
liquids, some holding iron bars, wooden sticks and long knives, a sign
that the crowd came fully prepared and meant harm."

NO CHANGE OF POLICY

The riots have emerged from a volatile mix of pre-Olympics protests,
diplomatic friction over Tibet and local discontent with the harsh
ways of the region's Party leadership which has heated up in past
months.

China has said the Dalai Lama engineered what were the biggest
protests in the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan region since 1989, a
claim he quickly denied.

China has chided the leaders of the United States and especially
Germany in past months for hosting the Dalai Lama, saying such acts
boost what they call his "separatist" goals. It has also urged India
to stop protests there by exiled Tibetans.

The hardline Communist Party boss of Tibet, Zhang Qingli, formerly
served in Xinjiang, the far western region where China has refined
tough controls on restive Uighur Muslims.

While it was uncertain whether the clashes would flare again over the
weekend, Beijing has already made clear it saw no reason to change its
policies in Tibet, where many locals resent the presence of the Han
Chinese, China's biggest ethnic group.

"We are fully capable of maintaining the social stability of Tibet,"
Xinhua quoted an official as saying in a statement repeated across
Chinese state media on Saturday.

China may not respond as harshly as it did to the 1989 protests in
Tibet, when now President Hu Jintao was Communist Party boss of the
region, but nor will it show any softness, said Drew Thompson, a China
expert at The Nixon Center in Washington.

Already the eruption of popular anger at China's presence in Tibet has
become an international issue likely to trouble Beijing's preparations
for the Olympics.

The Games should be boycotted if Beijing mishandles the protests,
Hollywood actor and Tibetan activist Richard Gere said.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank