For Immediate Release
Montreal Tibetans and supporters hold vigil in support of protests
(Montreal, Saturday, March 15, 2008) – Chinese authorities have responded with brute force to ongoing protests in Lhasa and across Tibet. Sources inside Tibet say that Chinese tanks rolled into Lhasa Friday morning and thousands of armed troops have sealed off the three major monasteries where the protests were initiated on Monday.
Following a police crackdown on a protest staged by monks from Ramoche Monastery in central Lhasa, dozens of monks and lay people clashed with armed police in the streets, overturning police vehicles and lighting them on fire. Police fired live ammunition into the crowd of protesters and at least two people and up to 33 are reported dead.
“At great risk, Tibetans across Tibet are rising up against China’s occupation of their homeland to show the world that, five months out from the Beijing Olympics, the situation in Tibet is critical and demands international attention,” said Dermod Travis, Executive Director of the Canada Tibet Committee. “Years of China’s repressive policies, repeated denunciations of the Dalai Lama, and the violent response to peaceful demonstrations by monks earlier this week have aggravated the tensions and desperation felt by Tibetans throughout Tibet."
In Labrang, eastern Tibet (present-day Gansu Province), 3,000 people converged in the streets on Friday while The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy is reporting widespread unrest throughout the Kham(present-day Sichuan province) and Amdo (Qinghai province) provinces of Tibet. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it has “received firsthand reports from American citizens in the city who report gunfire and other indications of violence.” Foreign governments are calling on the Chinese government to show restraint and have issued travel advisories for the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
“China has swamped Tibet with Chinese settlers, poured money into colonialist mega-projects like the railway that solidify its control, and ruthlessly attacked Tibetan culture and religion," said Maude Côté, a member of Students for a Free Tibet. “As the Olympics approach and the world’s eyes turn to Beijing, this outpouring of frustration is the natural consequence.”
The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, appealed to the Chinese leadership to “stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people.” In concert with Tibetan exiles around the world, Tibetans inside Tibet launched the protests on Monday to mark the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising.
“The timing and scale of this unrest throughout Tibet indicate a truly national Tibetan uprising taking place against China’s illegal occupation of Tibet,” added Ms Côté.
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Canada Tibet Committee, 514.487.0665