Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibet protesters fired on by Chinese security forces in 2008 -- report

July 23, 2010

Human Rights Watch alleges forces broke
international law on multiple occassions during unrest that started in Lhasa
Tania Branigan in Beijing
The Guardian (UK)
July 22, 2010

Chinese riot police in Xiahe, where hundreds of
Tibetans demonstrated on Friday Chinese riot
police in Xiahe -- where hundreds of Tibetans
demonstrated -- in March 2008. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

Chinese security forces fired indiscriminately on
demonstrators and brutally beat detainees during
unrest in Tibetan areas in 2008, alleges a report
released today by Human Rights Watch.

After interviewing 200 refugees and travellers,
the organisation also says that hundreds of those
arrested remain unaccounted for after what was
the region's most serious unrest for decades.

The riots in Lhasa on 14 March, in which
officials say 21 died and hundreds were injured,
followed protests by monks. Unrest then rippled
across other Tibetan areas of China.

Chinese officials have said the security forces
exercised "extreme restraint", and the commander
of the People's Armed Police has said its actions
complied with both domestic and international law.

But the report says that, while security forces
showed some restraint on some occasions, "in
multiple incidents -- [they] broke international
law, including prohibitions against
disproportionate use of force, torture, and
arbitrary detention, as well as the right to peaceful assembly".

Beijing describes the events of March 2008 as
riots instigated by the "Dalai clique" in the
hope of winning independence. Exiles, who say
they seek only meaningful autonomy, accuse
security forces of attacking peaceful protesters and killing scores of people.

The Human Rights Watch report alleges there is
"substantial evidence" of deaths in at least
three incidents involving indiscriminate shooting.

One Tibetan refugee, describing events in Lhasa
on 14 March, told the group: "They [police] were
coming from the direction of Jiangsu Lu firing at
any Tibetans they saw, and many people had been killed."

The region's governor has said that security
forces were not carrying lethal weapons, although
state news agency Xinhua described police firing
"warning shots" and other media showed armed
officers. Witnesses at the time heard gunfire.

Chinese state media reported only one shooting by
security forces, in Sichuan in mid-March. Xinhua
said officers shot four rioters "in self-defence"
- initially reporting the four were dead, but then amending the article.

Today's report also quotes several witnesses
describing brutal beatings during arrests and
detention, including with rifle butts, police
batons and sand-filled rubber tubes.

One monk, from a monastery just outside Lhasa,
told the group: "We were beaten very badly. The
guards used clubs and sticks to beat us."

A resident from Tongren, in Qinghai province,
said soldiers and police beat a crowd with
electric batons as they arrested people.

The 73-page report is primarily based on
interviews with people who had just left China,
but some cases are from unreported official
Chinese statements. A monk from Ganzi in Sichuan
was jailed for six years for parading through a
street with a Snow Lion flag, the symbol adopted by Tibetan exiles.

"The defendant Sherab Rongbo colluded with others
to produce a 'Tibetan independence' flag, which
he then held high in public -- brazenly inciting
separatism and undermining national unity," said
the Chinese report. It added that his "major
criminal act" caused "mass panic" because
shopkeepers feared the kind of attacks seen in Lhasa.

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at
Human Rights Watch, called for a full independent
inquiry into events, adding: "Abuses by security
forces are unlikely to quell, and may even
aggravate, the longstanding grievances that
prompted the protests in the first place."

Verifying accounts of what happened in 2008 has
been extremely difficult. Journalists were
prevented from travelling to affected areas.
Special permits for escorted tours are required
for media visits to the Tibetan Autonomous Region
and are rarely granted, although the Guardian was
allowed to visit in October 2008. The security
apparatus is extensive and many people in Lhasa were reluctant to talk.

The report also cites cases of Tibetans punished
for passing information overseas. Gonpo Tserang
was jailed for three years on state secrets
charges for sending text messages that "distorted
the facts and true situation regarding social stability in the Tibetan area".
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