Batons and Tear Gas as Tibetan Unrest Spreads Beyond Borders (Updated)

Update (March 16): The Guardian is reporting from Xining, Qinghai, that protests have spread in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces:

In Aba county, Sichuan province, protesters attacked a police station with petrol bombs and fought street battles with riot police. There were unconfirmed reports of fatal shootings.

“It’s chaos out there. I am too afraid to leave my home,” a resident told the Guardian. “They have been burning, smashing, looting and beating.”

…In Qinghai, large numbers of riot police moved to quell a disturbance near Rebkong monastery in Tongren county. A former soldier with contacts in the army said he had been warned not to visit the area. “There is trouble there. It is too dangerous.”

Roads to the area were lined with checkpoints. Returning reporters said they had seen no sign of violence, but monks had told them the monastery was surrounded by snipers and they were under orders to remove pictures of the Dalai Lama from the temples. A Tibetan who answered the phone at the Rebkong monastery confirmed there had been fighting.

The report also includes a video of protests in Gansu.

The BBC is also reporting on unrest in Sichuan and Gansu. Also, Knight-Ridder reporter Tim Johnson blogs about the difficulties foreign correspondents are having getting into Tibet and even reporting on the situation from nearby provinces.

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More information is coming out about the pro-Tibet protests in Gansu, where thousands of monks from Labrang Monastery and laypeople have been marching against Chinese rule in Tibet. The Guardian reports from Xiahe:

Another monk estimated that the total number of paramilitaries had at least doubled overnight to 2,000 or more in a town of just 150,000 inhabitants, adding: ‘I myself saw more than 10 armed vehicles arrive today.’

It is a very modern battle of wills. Labrang monastery dates from the early 18th century. But purple-robed monks, with trainers on their feet and fleeces beneath their woollen shawls for warmth, chatter on mobile phones and complain that they have been banned from internet cafés for the past year as the government has stepped up restrictions on religious life. They say that their movements are more restricted and that in recent years monks who were caught pasting Free Tibet posters on the wall have been severely beaten and imprisoned.

But they appear to know little about the protests in Lhasa and elsewhere – perhaps because they are well aware that mobiles are monitored.

Reuters is reporting that violence may have also broken out in Xiahe, though it has been difficult for journalists to confirm accounts:

Xiahe in Gansu province saw hundreds of monks and lay residents march in peaceful defiance, to judge from pictures sent to reporters.

A witness who was in Xiahe early on Sunday said the Tibetan quarter of town was sealed off by anti-riot troops, and on the Chinese side of town there was evidence of recent violence.

“The whole glass front of this hotel was smashed and you could see a lot of windows broken all along the street,” the witness said.

Click here to see photos of the demonstrations in Gansu, mostly taken on cell phones.

Slideshow: PLA soldiers on the street of Lhasa, from woeser’s blog, The Opposite of China blog, popyard.com and New Century News:

More photos from a Lhasa based blogger here.

March 15, 2008 11:36 PM
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Categories: Politics, Society