Tibet protests spread to other provinces

Tibet protests spread to other provinces

( AP )- Violence in Tibet spilled over into neighboring provinces Sunday where Tibetan protesters defied a Chinese government crackdown. The Dalai Lama warned Tibet faced "cultural genocide" and appealed to the world for help.

Protests against Chinese rule of Tibet were reported in neighboring Sichuan and Qinghai provinces and also in western Gansu province. All are home to sizable Tibetan populations.

The demonstrations come after protests in the Tibetan capital Lhasa escalated into violence Friday, with Buddhist monks and others torching police cars and shops in the fiercest challenge to Beijing's rule over the region in nearly two decades.

"Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place," said the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. He was referring to China's policy of encouraging the ethnic Han majority to migrate to Tibet, restrictions on Buddhist temples and re-education programs for monks.

He told reporters in Dharmsala, the north Indian town where Tibet's self-declared government-in-exile is based, that an international body should investigate the government's crackdown on the Lhasa protests.

Tibet was effectively independent for decades before Chinese communist troops entered in 1950. The latest unrest began March 10 on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet.

The protests are an embarrassment for China, coming just weeks before the Beijing Summer Olympics ceremonies kick off with the torch relay, which is set to pass through Tibet.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama's government in exile, said multiple sources inside Tibet had counted at least 80 corpses since the violence broke out Friday. He did not know how many of the bodies were protesters . On Friday, the exiled government said at least 30 protesters had been killed by Chinese authorities and the number could be as high as 100.

The official Chinese Xinhua News Agency has said at least 10 civilians were burned to death Friday. The figures could not be independently verified because China restricts foreign media access to Tibet.

In Sichuan province, Tibetan monks and police clashed Sunday in Aba county after the monks staged a protest, said a resident there who refused to give his name. He said one policeman had been killed and three or four police vans had been set on fire.

The India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said at least seven people have been shot dead in the county. There was no way of immediately confirming the claim.

In Qinghai province, 100 monks defied a directive confining them to Rongwo Monastery in Tongren city by climbing a hill behind the monastery, where they set off fireworks and burned incense to protest the crackdown in Tibet.

Businesses were shuttered, and about 30 riot police with shields took up posts near the monastery. Police forced journalists to delete photographs of police.

In western Gansu province, more than 100 students protested at a university in Lanzhou, according to Matt Whitticase of London-based activist group Free Tibet.

A curfew was imposed in Xiahe city in Gansu province on Sunday, a day after police fired tear gas on a 1,000 protesters, including Buddhist monks and ordinary citizens, who had marched from the historic Labrang monastery.

Large communities of ethnic Tibetans live far outside modern Tibet in areas that were the Himalayan region's eastern and northeastern provinces of Amdo and Kham until the communist takeover in 1951. Those areas were later split off by Beijing to become the Chinese province of Qinghai and part of Sichuan province.

Lhasa appeared to remain under a curfew on Sunday, though some people and cars were seen on the streets during daylight. The government has not announced the curfew but residents said authorities have warned them not to go outside for several days now.

Hong Kong Cable TV said about 200 military vehicles each carrying dozens of armed soldiers, drove into the center of Lhasa on Sunday. The footage showed mostly empty streets, but for armored and military vehicles patrolling and soldiers searching buildings.

Loudspeakers on the streets repeatedly broadcast slogans urging residents to "discern between enemies and friends, maintain order."

Xinhua said most shops in the Old Town area of Lhasa, which saw the brunt of the violence, were still closed Sunday. It said some shops in other parts of the town had reopened.

China's communist government is hoping Beijing's hosting of the Aug. 8-24 Olympics will boost its popularity at home as well as its image abroad. But the event has already attracted international scrutiny of China's human rights record and its pollution problems.

International criticism of the crackdown in Tibet so far has been mild, with no threats of an Olympic boycott or other sanctions. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Sunday on China "to exercise restraint in dealing with the protests."

Rice said she was "concerned by reports of a sharply increased police and military presence in and around Lhasa." Her statement urged China to release those jailed for protesting.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Saturday he opposed an Olympic boycott over Tibet.

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