Witnesses Say Up To Six Tibetans Killed in Anti-Chinese Protest
CHENGDU, China (AP) _ Chinese police shot and killed up to six Tibetans when about 2,000 protesters demanding independence stoned and set afire a police station in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, witnesses said Friday.
The official Xinhua News Agency said that in addition to the six dead, 19 policemen were seriously hurt in the demonstration Thursday. It said some rioters snatched guns from policemen and shot at the officers, who ″strictly observed the orders of the higher authorities not to open fire.″
Witnesses, however, said the protesters fled from police fire. By evening, they said, calm had been restored but Tibetans were still milling around the square.
It was the second protest reported this week in the remote Himalayan region China annexed in 1950 and was the largest known demonstration since 1959 when an uprising failed and the Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India.
China accused the spiritual leader of instigating the protest.
″Yesterday’s riot is regarded as a direct outcome of Dalai’s activities to split the motherland as an exile engaged in political activities,″ Xinhua said in a broadcast monitored in Tokyo.
A traveler from Lhasa reported Friday that two Americans were arrested after the first demonstration, involving at least 26 people on Sunday. However, other travelers and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing could not confirm the report.
Foreign witnesses who flew Friday from Lhasa to Chengdu said the second demonstration began with a protest over Sunday arrests.
They told The Associated Press at least three and as many as six Tibetans were killed. Other people were injured and unconfirmed reports said a Chinese also was killed, they said.
The police station was heavily damaged by fire and police vehicles were burned, they said. Eight Buddhist monks were arrested, but at least some escaped during the fire, according to the reports.
An undetermined number of foreign tourists were detained briefly and their film and notes were confiscated.
The demonstrators ″said they wanted their freedom,″ said Australian tourist Loris Konye. She and other witnesses said the protesters were armed only with stones.
″They smashed up the pavement and got stones from the ground,″ said Leon Schadeberg, a 22-year-old free-lance photographer from London. ″There were ladies coming forward with bags of stones and dropping them for the crowd to throw.″
Schadeberg said friends who saw the protest begin said about eight monks started a protest march around Johkang Temple in central Lhasa, following a circular route around the temple that pilgrims walk each day while praying.
Schadeberg said his friends reported that police took the monks to the police station in the temple square. Schadeberg and other tourists who arrived at the square around 10 a.m., after the arrests, said angry Tibetans began gathering in front of the station.
Two Swedish tourists, Marie Johanson and Pamela Holm, said they saw protesters carrying homemade Tibetan flags.
″The demonstrators started throwing stones at the police trucks and smashing the windows,″ Schadeberg said. ″Some (police) came forward with guns threatening to shoot. But the demonstrators just came forward and started pushing them around. There was some sort of scuffle when they got one policeman down on the ground.″
The protesters set fire to at least four police vehicles and the police station and attacked fire trucks that tried to put out the blaze, according to the witnesses.
Schadeberg said protesters broke down the door of the blazing station and some rushed in.
″One (monk) came back out badly burned and he was picked up and put on people’s shoulders. Everybody was cheering,″ he said.
Schadeberg said police began firing pistols after the crowd occupied a building down the street from the police station.
He said he saw one Tibetan shot in the leg, and that two fellow tourists reported seeing bodies in the square. In addition, he said, friends traveling with him saw a teen-age boy shot in the head in front of the temple.
″He was alive when he was dragged off by the Tibetans, but the word got around that he died on the way to the hospital,″ Schadeberg said. He said he later saw blood at the spot and elsewhere in the square.
Altogether, Schadeberg said unconfirmed reports by foreigners indicated six Tibetans and a Chinese were killed. Ms. Johanson gave the same figure.
Schadeberg reported seeing Buddhist monks on the roof of the Johkang Temple stone and seriously injure Chinese men who came to take pictures of the protesters below.
Witnesses said the protesters fled from police gunfire.
The demonstration coincided with the annual celebration of National Day, the anniversary of Communist rule in China.
Xinhua said 21 monks and five other people took part in the Sunday demonstration and that some were detained.
CBS said an unidentified traveler from Lhasa reported 21 police were injured in that clash, one seriously.
The traveler also was quoted as saying two Americans were arrested after Sunday’s demonstration: John Ackerly of Cambridge, Mass., and Blake Kerr of East Hampton, N.Y.
Travelers arriving Friday in Chengdu had no word on the Americans, but Ms. Johanson said two unidentified Westerners reportedly were expelled from Tibet following the first protest.
The unrest coincided with reports by exiled Tibetans in India of a recent crackdown by Chinese police on dissidents, and with a controversial 10-day visit to the United States by Tibet’s former ruler, the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama, regarded by his followers as a god-king, fled Tibet in 1959 with thousands of followers after a failed uprising against the Chinese
In Washington, the Dalai Lama appeared before a U.S. congressional human rights caucus and called for negotiations on Tibet’s status. China expressed ″strong dissatisfaction″ with the United States for allowing the statement.