Tibetan protests turn violent

( AP )- Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in Tibet turned violent Friday, bathing Lhasa in smoke from tear gas, bonfires and burned shops, and posing a challenge to China on whether its image can withstand a harsh crackdown ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

From exile in India, the Dalai Lama appealed to China not to use force to end the largest, most sustained demonstrations in nearly two decades against Beijing's 57-year rule in Tibet. China's government in Tibet accused the Dalai Lama's supporters of inciting the unrest and imposed a curfew, ordering people to stay indoors.

Eyewitness accounts and photos posted on the Internet portrayed a chaotic scene in Lhasa, the provincial capital, with crowds hurling rocks at security forces, hotels and restaurants. The U.S. Embassy said Americans had reported gunfire. U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported two people were killed.

At a demonstration outside the United Nations in New York, Psurbu Tsering of the Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey said its members received phone calls from Tibet claiming 70 people had been killed and 1,000 arrested. The reports could not be verified.

Shops were set on fire along two main streets surrounding the Jokhang temple, Tibet's most sacred shrine and the heart of Lhasa's old city, sending out thick clouds of smoke. Young men set fire to a Chinese flag and a huge bonfire burned in a street. Armed police in riot gear backed by armored vehicles blocked intersections, said a Tibetan guide.

The violence, which came on the fifth day of sporadic and largely peaceful protests, poses difficulties for a communist leadership that has looked to the Aug. 8-24 Olympics as a way to recast China as a friendly, modern power. Too rough a crackdown could put that at risk while balking could embolden protesters, costing Beijing authority in often restive Tibet.

" China is afraid of letting this protest mount. On the other hand, the world's eyes are upon China in advance of the Olympics. If they're too heavy-handed, it could cause them a lot of problems," said Jamie Metzl of the New York-based Asia Society. "It's an open question as to how much China thinks it can afford a major crisis in advance of the Summer Olympics."

In an ominous turn for Beijing, the street protests broadened Friday. Photographs taken by camera phone and provided by the Indian branch of Students for a Free Tibet showed hundreds of Tibetans marching through Xiahe, a Tibetan town in the western province of Gansu. Robed monks displayed the banned Tibetan national flag.

In Lhasa, the protests that had largely been confined to monks spilled over to ordinary Tibetans, who vented pent-up anger at Chinese and their businesses. Guests and employees at the Lhasa Dong Cuo International Youth Hostel huddled in the lobby, away from windows being smashed by protesters.

"Monks and very young men down to the age of 15-16 are smashing the Chinese shops, kicking in doors and windows, setting the shops on fire and beating the Chinese in the vicinity," the Danish daily Politiken quoted an unidentified witness as saying.

The exiled Dalai Lama, whom most Tibetans consider their spiritual leader, said China should stop using force in Tibet, saying he is "deeply concerned."

"I therefore appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people. I also urge my fellow Tibetans not to resort to violence," he said in a statement released in Dharmsala, India, seat of the government-in-exile.

As in Myanmar, where Buddhist monks led pro-democracy protests in September, Buddhism permeates every aspect of Tibetan life. While heavily regulated by communist authorities, monks remain widely respected for their piety and devotion to Tibetan culture, serving for many as living symbols of Tibetan nationalism.

Over the centuries, Tibet was at times part of China's dynastic empires. Communist forces invaded the region in 1950, to reclaim the Himalayan region and seize the commanding heights overlooking rival India. Pressured to cede more power to the communists, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising.

The latest unrest began Monday, the anniversary of the 1959 rebellion, when 300 monks from one monastery demanded the release of other monks detained last fall. But political demands soon came to the fore. Other monks and ordinary Tibetans demanded independence and unfurled the Tibetan flag. Arrests ensued, leading to more protests.

Friday's violence apparently was triggered after police moved in to stop a group of protesting monks. Crowds then grew, and when police showed up in larger numbers, protesters attacked police cars and shops.

"It was chaos everywhere. I could see fires, smoke, cars and motorcycles burning," said the Tibetan guide, who asked not to be identified for fear of government retaliation. Among the sites being patrolled by riot police, he said, was the broad square of the Potala, the Dalai Lama's former palace.

Radio Free Asia quoted other witnesses as saying that two bodies were seen on the ground in the shopping district in the old city. It said other reports put the death toll higher, but gave no figures.

China's official Xinhua News Agency issued terse reports in English only, saying people had been hospitalized with injuries and vehicles and shops burned. Hospitals contacted in Lhasa said they were ordered not to release any information.

The Tibet government called the riot an act of sabotage that was "organized, premeditated and masterminded by the Dalai clique," according to Xinhua. It said the government was taking "effective measures to properly handle the incident" and said electricity and phone service, which had been cut part of the day, was being restored.

The unrest came as Tibet, long China's poorest province, has wracked up stunning growth, in part fueled by hefty investment and subsidies from Beijing meant to alleviate resentment among Tibetans. Still, Tibetans have complained that the economic benefits have mainly enriched Chinese, many of them newcomers, leaving Tibetans feeling more marginalized.

China, which has invested billions of dollars in Olympics preparations, has staked its national prestige on the games. Five months before the games begin, it had expected to bask in international praise. Instead, the protests are attracting the kind of international attention China doesn't want.

The White House urged China to "respect Tibetan culture," while the U.S. ambassador to China urged senior Chinese officials to use restraint in dealing with the protesters, according to State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack.

" Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture. ... We regret the tensions between the ethnic groups and Beijing," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. President Bush "has said consistently that Beijing needs to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama."

European Union leaders also appealed to China to show calm in Tibet, but released a statement condemning China's handling of the protests so far.

Other Tibet watchers are less certain that international scrutiny will hold back China's hand if it feels threatened.

"Chinese leaders are not afraid of using force when they feel it's necessary. I don't think they'll be shy because there's now been violence on the demonstrators' side. I feel they think this gives them the green light to use a strong response," said Robbie Barnett, a Tibetan studies expert at Columbia University.

Tibet has been a focal point for protests by activists and international supporters ahead of the start of the Olympic torch relay, scheduled to come through China in May. Beijing plans for the torch to be carried to the top of Mount Everest, and closed its side of the mountain to climbers in a bid to prevent activists from disrupting the relay.

The timing of the Olympics has been a key factor for pro-independence advocates, said Kate Saunders, with the International Campaign for Tibet.

"There's an awareness in Tibet of the international spotlight on China and of the way that groups outside and individuals from different organizations are actively using the global spotlight to press for change in China," she said.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Putin discusses results of meeting with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan with Security Council
Putin discusses results of meeting with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan with Security Council
Vladimir Putin announces agreement on unblocking transport corridors between Azerbaijan and Armenia
Vladimir Putin announces agreement on unblocking transport corridors between Azerbaijan and Armenia
Ban on import of Turkish building materials to Armenia to be lifted from 2022
Ban on import of Turkish building materials to Armenia to be lifted from 2022
Loading Bars
Latest
Rasht-Astara railway of great importance to Iran - Iranian official
First Kazakhstani president expresses condolences to Azerbaijani president due to military helicopter crash
President Ilham Aliyev calls First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev
Volume of cargo loaded/unloaded in ports of Iran’s Abadan County soars
Georgia releases COVID-19 data for December 1
UK ambassador views de-mining work in Azerbaijan’s Tartar (PHOTO)
Kazakhstan's revenues from passenger transport via internal waters skyrocket
Azerbaijani oil prices decrease
Interest in dev’t strategy of inland transportation via 'One Belt One Road' growing - analyst
Covishield 63% effective against Covid, 81% against moderate-severe infection: Study
Bodies of Azerbaijani servicemen from fatal helicopter crash, handed over to their relatives (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Russian Embassy expresses condolences to Azerbaijan due to military helicopter crash of State Border Service (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani currency rates for December 1
Uzbekistan reveals its top polyethylene export destinations in 10M2021
Iranian currency rates for Dec. 1
US Ambassador to Azerbaijan expresses condolences for lives lost in crash of military helicopter
Azerbaijan reveals ongoing construction of Shukurbeyli-Jabrayil-Hadrut highway (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani FM to take part in meeting of OSCE FMs
Tesla dominates as EV sales take off in Israel
ADB funding bridge construction in Georgia
Uzbekistan shares domestic COVID-19 data for November 30
SOCAR Turkey intends to boost its activities - CEO
SOCAR Turkey's head talks Petkim goals
Oil rises 1% ahead of OPEC meeting under Omicron cloud
Baku Stock Exchange to hold auction for short-term notes of Central Bank
Azerbaijan provides water supply to liberated Lachin district
Azerbaijan’s export of non-oil products increases
Azerbaijan increases gas export since early 2021
Russian Gazprombank forecasts Azerbaijan's economic growth to recover
Price indexes of financial, trade sectors at Uzbek stock exchange rise
Turkey’s aviation fuel export to Georgia increases
Helicopter crash in Azerbaijan broke our hearts - Selcuk Bayraktar
Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling in Iran
Government of Uzbekistan approves feasibility study for construction of elevated subway
Russia again surpasses Azerbaijan as top importer of Georgia's potatoes
Kazakhstan adds over 700 new COVID-19 cases in 24h
Russia, Azerbaijan progressively developing co-op in agriculture – Russian ministry
President Erdogan calls for foreign long-term investments in Turkey
Year passes since liberation of Azerbaijani Lachin district from Armenian occupation
Air travelers to U.S. set to face tougher COVID-19 testing
British armed forces to allow people with HIV to enlist
Brazil reports first cases of Omicron variant
U.S. FDA experts narrowly recommend Merck's COVID-19 new drug molnupiravir
WHO warns against blanket travel bans over Omicron coronavirus variant
Turkey confirms 25,216 daily COVID-19 cases
9 injured in refinery fire in north Algeria
UK to offer booster vaccines to all adults by end of January
At least three students dead in Michigan school shooting, suspect in custody
Canada to ban travelers from Nigeria, Malawi, Egypt over Omicron concerns
Uzbekistan reveals leading regions in amount of loans issued in 9M2021
Head of EU delegation expresses condolences to Azerbaijan over military helicopter crash
Italian Embassy expresses condolences to Azerbaijan over military helicopter crash
Georgian economy grows 6.9% in October 2021
Turkish President to pay visit to Qatar in December
Capacity of crashed military helicopter of Azerbaijan's State Security Service was 24 people
Manual counting of 29% of protocols show that 7 parties may enter Kyrgyz Parliament
AZAL plane makes emergency landing in Baku
Pakistan seeking to increase trade routes on border with Iran
UN Resident Coordinator expresses condolences over military helicopter crash in Azerbaijan
Any outside influence as cause of helicopter crash out of question - head of Azerbaijani State Border Service
Coordination Headquarters holds another meeting in Azerbaijan (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan's First Deputy Prosecutor General talks investigation, following helicopter crash
Former Turkish PM expresses condolences over helicopter crash in Azerbaijan
French ambassador expresses condolences over crash of military helicopter in Azerbaijan
UK's Ambassador expresses condolences over crash of military helicopter in Azerbaijan
Organization of Turkic States expresses condolences to Azerbaijan due to helicopter crash
Israeli ambassador expresses condolences to Azerbaijan over helicopter crash
Iranian Foreign Ministry expresses condolences to Azerbaijan over helicopter crash
Helicopter crashed while landing at Garaheybat training center – Azerbaijani State Border Service
Status of martyr to be assigned to those killed in plane crash in Azerbaijan (VIDEO)
Turkish President Erdogan holds phone talks with President Ilham Aliyev
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva give instructions on burial of those killed in helicopter crash
Witnesses of helicopter crash being questioned in Azerbaijan – First Deputy Prosecutor General
Turkish Minister of National Defense expresses condolences to Azerbaijani Defense Minister
Flight recorder of crashed military helicopter found in Azerbaijan
Pakistani companies may partake in restoration of Azerbaijan's liberated territories (PHOTO)
Iran looks to boost its energy trade through Economic Cooperation Organization
Iran's ties with Economic Cooperation Organization to boost country's cargo transit
Azerbaijan excludes any outside interference following deadly helicopter crash
IRENEX shares data on sales of Iranol Oil Company
Gas swap agreement is mutually beneficial for Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan - experts
ICIEC Signs MOU with Japan's Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI)
Israel's Bezeq Q3 profit up, raises full year outlook
Iran seeks to boost trade ties with Turkmenistan
Pakistan expects $3 billion reserves deposit from Saudi in days
Iran eyes to commission 12 new metro stations in Tehran
Oxford University says no evidence yet that vaccines won't protect against severe disease from Omicron
SOCAR’s STAR Refinery reduces crude oil imports
Iran remains optimistic about Vienna nuclear talks
FMs of Azerbaijan, Turkey hold phone talk
Turkmenistan's crude oil supplies to Turkey down
Azerbaijan's oil export volume down in 10M2021
Footage from crash scene of military helicopter of Azerbaijan’s State Fire Service (PHOTO/VIDEO)
U.S. Int'l Development Finance Corporation provides financing to Bank of Georgia for SMEs support
Kazakhstan boosts crude oil exports to Turkey
Iran's president to speak before parliament
Kazakhstan increases trade with Turkey over 9M2021
Use of Sputnik Light as booster jab for all vaccines approved in UAE
Cargo transportation via internal waters up in Kazakhstan
Central Bank of Azerbaijan reveals amount of sold foreign currency
All news