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China arrests Tibetan monks after attack on police

March 23, 2009

By GILLIAN WONG
The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) -- Nearly 100 Tibetan monks were
arrested or turned themselves in Sunday after
hundreds of protesters attacked a police station
in northwest China, state media reported.

The protest appeared to be in retaliation for the
disappearance of a Tibetan who escaped from
police custody in Qinghai province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The demonstration was the latest sign of Tibetan
anger in a tense month of tightened Chinese
security in the region because of a number of sensitive anniversaries.

Several hundred people -- including nearly 100
monks from the La'gyab Monastery -- attacked the
police station of La'gyab, a township in the
Tibetan prefecture of Golog, assaulting policemen
and government staff on Saturday, Xinhua said.

The report said the assault caused some slight injuries, but did not elaborate.

Six people were arrested for alleged involvement
in the riot while another 89 people surrendered
to police. All but two were monks, Xinhua said.
Police were searching for other monks who took
part in the attack but fled, Xinhua cited local official Ju Kezhong, as saying.

Order has been restored in the township, it said.

A man who answered the phone at Qinghai's public
security department said he had not heard about
the attack or the arrests. Phone calls to other
police departments and government offices in the area rang unanswered.

The violence began after a man accused of
supporting Tibetan independence escaped from
police custody and went missing, Xinhua said. A
Tibetan exile Web site says the man committed suicide after fleeing.

Zhaxi Sangwu of Qinghai province left the police
station in La'gyab Saturday, prompting a manhunt.

Xinhua cited authorities as saying the man fled
after asking to go to the washroom. It cited a
witness as saying he was seen swimming in the Yellow River.

A report on what appeared to be the same incident
by the Tibetan exile Web site phayul.com claimed
the protest erupted because a man jumped into the
Yellow River to commit suicide after escaping
police while going to the restroom.

Phayul.com's report cited an anonymous source in
Dharmsala, India, who was a former resident of
the area, as saying the man was 28-year-old monk
Tashi Sangpo. The source said police found a
Tibetan national flag and political leaflets in his room.

Dharmsala is the seat of the Dalai Lama's
self-proclaimed government-in-exile and the
destination of many Tibetans who flee China.

The Web site's report said the monk's death
sparked an anti-China protest in the township,
with Tibetans in the streets chanting Tibetan independence slogans.

Security in Tibetan areas has been tightened in
recent weeks as Beijing tried to head off trouble
ahead of sensitive anniversaries this month.
March 14 marked the one-year anniversary of
anti-government riots in Lhasa, Tibet's regional
capital, while March 17 marked 50 years since the
Dalai Lama escaped into exile in India after
Chinese troops crushed a Tibetan revolt.

So far, it appears that major demonstrations have
been prevented, though small pockets of protests
have been reported by Tibetan rights groups in
recent weeks. Most could not be independently
confirmed because communication is spotty in
those areas and residents usually will not talk
for fear of official retaliation.

China claims Tibet has always been part of its
territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan
region was virtually independent for centuries
and that Beijing's tight control is draining them
of their culture and identity.
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