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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Troops in Tibetan town in China

March 25, 2009

Dispatch Online (South Africa)
March 24, 2009

SECURITY forces patrolled the streets of a Tibetan town in northwest
China yesterday after a weekend protest led to the detention of
nearly 100 monks .

"Security patrols continue today and there are still very few people
in the streets," a resident, who could not be named for fear of
reprisal, told reporters by telephone.

The woman said she was unsure about the number of security forces,
but the US-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in an
e-mailed statement that new troops had arrived.

"The latest information -- is that new troops from Xining (Qinghai's
capital) have been deployed in the area," said Kate Saunders,
communications director of ICT.

Ninety-three monks were held by authorities after what Chinese State
media called a riot in which a mob attacked a police station in
Rabgya, a town in the mountains of Qinghai province.

It was the first reported case of major unrest in Tibetan-populated
areas this year, and came less than two weeks after the 50th
anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule in the region.

It also came just over a week after the first anniversary of riots in
the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, which began on March 14 last year.

The protest began after a man held on suspicion of "Tibet
independence" activities disappeared, the official Xinhua news agency said.

A video of the protest shot from a mobile phone and posted on the
Tibetan news website -- the authenticity of which could
not be confirmed -- showed a large crowd of monks and lay-people
shouting loudly.

According to Xinhua, the protesters had been "deceived by rumours"
about the man, who was taken into custody in Rabgya on suspicion of
being involved in advocating "Tibet independence".

The man, identified as Zhaxi Sangwu, disappeared after swimming
across the Yellow River that flows through the town, Xinhua quoted
police and a witness as saying.

The London-based group Free Tibet quoted a source as saying the
protesters assembled because they believed he had been forced to jump
into the river as the only way of escaping the police station.

Tibet's government-in-exile, in the northern Indian hill town of
Dharamshala, said yesterday the man was a monk arrested for pulling
down a Chinese flag and replacing it with a Tibetan one.

But it said the subsequent protest was peaceful and denied official
media reports that monks attacked the police station.

"Describing the incident as an attack is not accurate as it has been
used by the Chinese authorities," said Thubten Samphel, a
spokesperson for the exiled administration.

"The Tibetan protests in front of the police station came as a result
of one young monk who committed suicide by jumping into a river. That
he was forced to take such desperate action led them to protest."

Chinese authorities have launched a massive security clampdown in
recent weeks to quell possible unrest related to the 50th anniversary
of the uprising, which led spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to flee into exile.

"The Dalai Lama has requested Tibetans to show restraint and also
asked the Chinese authorities not to provoke Tibetans by increasing
the current crackdown," Samphel said.

Another resident in Rabgya said he did not know if the monk had
wanted to commit suicide or simply escape, or even whether he was
dead. -- Sapa-AFP
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