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New Protest Breaks Out in Western China

April 21, 2008

Associated Press
April 19, 2008

BEIJING -- A new protest broke out in a restive Tibetan region of
western China, prompting wide-scale arrests and tightened security,
local hotel workers and an activist group reported Friday.

More than 100 ethnic Tibetans, including Buddhist monks and lay people,
were detained following the protest Thursday in Tongren county in
Qinghai province, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
reported.

Monks calling for the release of fellow Buddhist clergy were joined
Thursday by local residents at a market, according to the center, based
in the Indian town of Dharmsala, the seat of the Tibetan
government-in-exile. It said police rushed to the scene and began
beating participants, despite efforts at mediation by a senior monk.

Receptionists reached by phone at Tongren hotels confirmed the protest,
saying a crowd had gathered near the local county offices. "Today
there's no more protests. Those people were all seized," one
receptionist said.

A woman at another hotel put the number of protesters in the dozens and
said the local monastery of Rongwo had been closed to visitors. Police
and armed paramilitary police were checking identification cards and
residency permits and imposed an overnight curfew, she said.

"Police even came to our hotel to check on people. No one was allowed
outside after 12 p.m.," she said. The women refused to give their names
for fear of retaliation by authorities, who have reportedly offered
rewards for information on people leaking news of protests and
crackdowns to the outside.

A worker at a Tibetan restaurant in downtown Tongren near the monastery
said police attacked protesters indiscriminately. "They were randomly
beating people," said the woman, who gave her name as Duoma. She said
the monastery was completely sealed off Friday, with no one allowed to
enter or leave.

Monks had originally demanded the release of those detained after a
March 16 protest, in which about 100 monks climbed a hillside above the
monastery, burned incense and set off fireworks, while riot police
massed outside.

Tongren, located in a valley 600 miles north of the Tibetan capital of
Lhasa, is a mix of Tibetans and ethnic Han Chinese. Antigovernment
protests sprung up throughout Tibetan areas of western China after
demonstrations in Lhasa turned violent on March 14. Hundreds of shops
were torched and mobs attacked Han Chinese.

State media have reported more than 3,000 people either answered calls
to surrender to police or have been captured, with at least 1,870
released because they committed only minor offenses. Beijing has blamed
the violence on the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and
his supporters, and said 22 people died in the Lhasa rioting. The Dalai
Lama's Tibetan government-in-exile says more than 140 people were killed
in the government crackdown.
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