China launches Tibetan loyalty drive amid new violence
(dpa) - China on Saturday said it had launched a loyalty campaign in deeply divided Tibetan areas, as an unconfirmed report said up to 15 people died when police opened fire on protesters.
The ruling Communist Party ordered all party members and officials in Tibetan areas to "play an active role in maintaining social stability with more loyalty" and spread the message in rural areas, businesses, schools and other organizations, the official Xinhua news agency said.
A party circular urged local governments to "learn from last month's riot in Lhasa", the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, and "increase anti-secession education among party members and officials at the grassroot level," the agency said.
US-based Radio Free Asia on Saturday said new violence that erupted in the south-western province of Sichuan left up to 15 people dead after police opened fire on Tibetan protesters.
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.
Xinhua quoted a local official as saying police had fired "warning shots" to stop a violent protest but had exercised restraint in quelling a "riot" outside government offices.
The agency said one official was seriously injured in the violence but reported no deaths or injuries to protesters.
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 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 many other Tibetan areas of China, which is home to about 6 million Tibetans, including some 2.5 million in the Autonomous Region.
The party circular said members and officials in Tibetan areas "should be aware that riots lead to disaster and stability is central to the public welfare".
"Party organs should emphasize more facts that illustrate the huge progress achieved in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited regions in the past half century to officials and ordinary people," the agency quoted the circular as saying.
It said the party should "intensify the patriotism and legal awareness of party members and officials, which will be essential to maintain their loyalty when encounters secessionist interference."