New violence, deaths reported in Tibetan area of China

Other News Materials 5 April 2008 05:35 (UTC +04:00)

New violence that erupted in a Tibetan area of south-western China left up to 15 people dead after police opened fire on protesters, US-based Radio Free Asia reported on Saturday. ( dpa )

The broadcaster listed 11 Tibetans identified by local sources as having died during a clash on Thursday night in the Kardze, or Garze, area of Sichuan province.

China's official Xinhua news agency quoted a local official as saying police had fired "warnings shots" to stop a violent protest but had "exercised restraint" in quelling the "riot" outside government offices.

The agency said one official was seriously injured in the violence but reported no deaths or injuries to protesters.

"Police were forced to fire warning shots to put down the violence, since local officials and people were in great danger," it quoted the Kardze official as saying.

Radio Free Asia said the police fired at a crowd of several hundred monks and lay Tibetans who were demanding the release of two detained monks from Kardze's Tongkor monastery.

Dozens of people were injured and many were unaccounted for after the clash, it said.

Unrest began in the monastery following the detention of two people there on Wednesday during police searches that formed part of a "patriotic education" campaign.

About 350 monks and 350 lay Tibetans gathered at the Tongkor government offices to demand the release of the two men, the broadcaster said.

The clash is the latest of dozens of pro-independence demonstrations and unrest in Tibetan areas since March 10, when protests began to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

The protests escalated into rioting on March 14 in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

The Chinese government has said 19 people were killed in the violence in Lhasa but the Tibetan government-in-exile said about 140 people have been killed, most of them Tibetans shot by Chinese police.

Protests later erupted in Kardze and dozens of other Tibetan areas of China, which is home to about 6 million Tibetans, including some 2.5 million in the Autonomous Region.