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Violence Flares Up in Tibet; Eight Activists Killed, Group Says

April 5, 2008

The Wall Street Journal & Associated Press
April 4, 2008

BEIJING -- New violence has broken out in a volatile Tibetan region of
western China, leaving eight people dead, an overseas Tibet activist
group said Friday. China's official Xinhua News Agency said a government
official was seriously injured.

The London-based Free Tibet Campaign said police opened fire on hundreds
of Buddhist monks and lay people who had marched on local government
offices to demand the release of two monks detained for possessing
photographs of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader.

Xinhua made no mention of deaths or injuries among protesters, but said
a "riot" had flared up Thursday night outside government offices in the
Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture high in the mountains in Sichuan
province along the border with Tibet.

It said the official was "attacked and seriously wounded," and said
police were "forced to fire warning shots and put down the violence." No
other details were given.

The report indicates continuing unrest in Tibetan areas despite a
massive security presence imposed after sometimes violent antigovernment
demonstrations broke out last month in Tibet's capital Lhasa and
neighboring provinces.

Late last month, Xinhua reported that protesters in Garze attacked
police with knives and stones, killing one officer.

Matt Whitticase, spokesman for the London-based Free Tibet Campaign,
said the incident originated at the Tonkhor monastery in Garze with
government attempts to enforce a new "patriotic education campaign" -- a
program of ideological indoctrination blamed for stirring deep
resentment among monks. The campaign demands that monks denounce the
Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism who fled to India
amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Mr. Whitticase said the chief monk, Lobsang Jamyang, refused to allow a
government team to enter on Wednesday, but they returned Thursday with a
force of about 3,000 paramilitary troops. The two monks, Geshi Sonam
Tenzing and Tsultrim Phuntsog, were detained after photos of the Dalai
Lama were found among their belongings.

Soon afterward, the monastery's 370 monks marched on local government
headquarters to demand their release, joined by about 400 lay people,
Mr. Whitticase said. The group left after being told the two monks would
be freed at 8 p.m., but returned after officials reneged. Along the way,
they were confronted by troops at a road block, who opened fire on the
crowd, Mr. Whitticase said.

Mr. Whitticase provided the names of six of the eight people reportedly
killed, who included at least three women and one monk. He said
information on the incident had been relayed by a monk at a Tibetan
Buddhist monastery in southern India, who received it from anonymous
contacts in Garze.

Stepped-up patriotic education has been ordered as part of a crackdown
on dissent following deadly riots in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on
March 14, in which authorities say 22 people died. Other reports say up
to 140 people were killed in the protests and ensuing crackdown.

Beijing has accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the
violence, a charge the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner has repeatedly denied.

Authorities earlier this week said they plan to put rioters on trial and
reopen Tibet to foreign tourists by May -- a tight timetable that would
allow the government to put the issue behind it ahead of the August
Beijing Olympics.

Both Tibet and Tibetan communities in three neighboring provinces where
the protests spread, however, remain largely closed to foreign
journalists. Outside of Tibet, police turned away foreign reporters at
roadblocks leading into Tibetan areas, saying they were unsafe for travel.

A state media report on Friday said officials in Tibetan areas were
being forced into political study sessions in a bid to make sure
Beijing's dictates are followed.

"The numerous party members and grass-roots officials must further
launch education in opposing separatism and preserving the unity of the
motherland," the state-run Xinhua News Agency said, citing a notice from
the party's powerful Organization Department, which oversees personnel

Communist troops marched into Tibet in 1950 and Beijing strengthened its
hold on the region after the Dalai Lama fled in a failed uprising
against Chinese rule in 1959.
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