Tuesday, March 25, 2008

DHARAMSALA, India — China expanded its military lockdown in ethnic-Tibetan areas after protesters reportedly killed a policeman and security forces responded with gunfire.

China’s state-controlled media said today that a mob armed with stones and knives killed a paramilitary officer yesterday afternoon in southwestern Sichuan province.

Police then opened fire on the crowd, injuring at least a dozen people, according to local residents.

The police were forced to fire warning shots and dispersed the lawless mobsters, a local official told Xinhua news agency, adding that checkpoints had been placed on all roads to prevent anyone from leaving.

The fighting occurred in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, an area in Sichuan that is part of historic Tibet.

What began as a peaceful march by monks and nuns grew violent when armed police tried to suppress the crowd, which swelled to more than 200, according to the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

It said an 18-year-old monk was killed and another monk was injured when police fired into the crowd.

Chinese authorities already had announced that 381 Tibetans had been detained in Sichuan province.

Thousands of troops have been dispatched to Tibet and nearby provinces with large Tibetan populations to prevent further outbreaks.

Unrest began on March 10 when hundreds of monks demonstrated in the capital of Lhasa, erupting into violence four days later.

China says at least 22 people have died in Lhasa while estimates of the toll by the Tibetan government in exile range from 130 to 140.

Foreign journalists are banned from the Tibet region, making it impossible to independently verify conflicting accounts of the violence.

Meng Jianzhu, China’s minister of public security, called for security forces to remain on high alert and said patriotic campaigns would be carried out in Tibetan monasteries to boost support for Beijing, the Tibet Daily newspaper reported.

The Dalai [Lama] clique refuse to give up their evil designs, and even in their death throes are planning new acts of sabotage, Mr. Meng was quoted as saying Monday during a visit to Lhasa.

The exiled spiritual leader has reiterated his commitment to nonviolence, saying he is ready to hold talks with China over Tibetan autonomy instead of independence.

China”s state-controlled media did not report Monday’s protests at the torch-lighting ceremony in Greece, when a protester ran up behind Beijing Olympic organizing committee President Liu Qi and unfurled a banner with the Olympic rings replaced by handcuffs.

Any act to disrupt the Olympic torch relay is shameful and unpopular, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters today in Beijing. We also believe that competent authorities in countries through which the torch relay will pass have the obligation to ensure a smooth relay.

The torch relay is slated to travel through 20 countries, will be carried to the summit of Mount Everest and through Lhasa in June under tightened security. Tibetan activists say they will stage demonstrations along the way.

The very idea that they will be able to parade the torch through Tibet after the crackdown is obscene given what’s going on in Tibet, said Anne Holmes, acting director of the London-based Free Tibet campaign.

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