- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009


Hundreds of Tibetans attacked a police station and government officials in northwestern China despite heightened security, prompting the arrests Sunday of nearly 100 monks, state media reported.

Six of those arrested for purported involvement in the attack were caught by police, while 89 others turned themselves in, according to the official Xinhua news agency. All but two were monks, it said.

The protest appeared to be in response to the disappearance of a Tibetan who escaped from police custody in Qinghai province, Xinhua said.

According to a Tibetan exile, the protest in an ethnic-Tibetan part of Qinghai involved as many as 2,000 people and was sparked by the apparent suicide of a monk being investigated for unfurling a Tibetan flag.

Xinhua said several hundred people - including the nearly 100 monks from the Ragya Monastery - attacked the police station in Ragya, a township in the Tibetan prefecture of Golog, on Saturday, assaulting policemen and government staff members.

Some officials were injured slightly in the assault, Xinhua said, without elaborating.

A man who answered the phone at Qinghai’s public security department said he had not heard about the attack or the arrests. Phone calls to other police departments and government offices in the area rang unanswered.

The violence is the latest known incidence of unrest following a bomb explosion Monday in an unoccupied police station in predominantly Tibetan Ganzi prefecture in Sichuan province. The explosion shattered the building’s windows, but no injuries were reported.

In February, Tibetan advocacy groups said a thousand monks gathered at a monastery in Sichuan province’s Aba county to protest a ban on celebrating a traditional prayer festival called Monlam. One monk doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze.

The violence on Saturday began after a man accused of supporting Tibetan independence escaped from police custody and went missing, Xinhua said.

It cited authorities as saying the man fled from the Ragya police station after asking to go to the washroom, prompting a manhunt. It cited a witness as saying he was seen swimming in the Yellow River.

A former resident of the area who now lives in Dharmsala, India, said the protesters were angry because they believed the man, a 28-year-old monk named Tashi Sangpo, jumped in the river to commit suicide after fleeing.

“When Tashi was being interrogated by the officials, he asked their permission to go to the toilet. He then went out and jumped into the Yellow River,” the source said on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisals against his family still living in China. “The dead body is yet to be found.”

The exile, who said he received the information from people in Ragya, said 500 monks from the monastery protested outside the local administration office and the group swelled to about 2,000 as others from the village joined.

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