Friday 04 April 2008
Beijing - Chinese paramilitary police have killed eight people after opening fire on several hundred Tibetan monks and villagers in bloody violence that will fuel human rights protests as London prepares to host its leg of the Olympic torch relay this weekend.
Witnesses said the clash - in which dozens were wounded - erupted late last night after a government inspection team entered a monastery in the Chinese province of Sichuan trying to confiscate pictures of the Dalai Lama.
Officials searched the room of every monk in the Donggu monastery, a sprawling 15th century edifice in Ganzi, southwestern Sichuan, confiscating all mobile phones as well as the pictures.
When the inspectors tore up the photographs and threw them on the floor, a 74-year-old monk, identified as Cicheng Danzeng, tried to stop an act seen as a desecration by Tibetans who revere the Dalai Lama as their god king.
A young man working in the monastery, identified as Cicheng Pingcuo, 25, also made a stand and both were arrested.
The team then demanded that all the monks denounce the Dalai Lama, who fled China after a failed uprising in 1959. One monk, Yixi Lima, stood up and voiced his opposition, prompting the other monks to add their voices.
At about 6.30 p.m., the entire monastic body marched down to a nearby river where paramilitary police were encamped and demanded the release of the two men.
They were joined by several hundred local villagers, many of them enraged at the detention of the 74-year-old monk Cicheng Danzeng, who locals say is well respected in the area for his learning and piety.
Shouting "Long Live the Dalai Lama," "Let the Dalai Lama come back" and "We want freedom," the crowd demonstrated until about nine in the evening.
Witnesses said that at around that time, as many as 1,000 paramilitary police used force to try to end the protest and opened fire on the crowd. It was not known if the demonstrators had been throwing stones at the police.
In the gunfire, eight people died, according to a local resident in direct contact with the monastery. These included a 27-year-old monk identified as Cangdan and two women named as Zhulongcuo and Danluo.
Witnesses said a 30-year-old villager, Pupu Deley, was killed, along with the son of a villager named Cangdan, and the daughter of villager Cuogu. Two other people, whose identities were not available, were also killed and dozens were wounded, the witnesses said.
They said about ten people were still missing today, including another monk, identified as Ciwang Renzhen.
Armed paramilitary police patrolled the streets of the village today and surrounded the monastery. All communications had been cut.
The latest upsurge of violence highlights the difficulties the Chinese authorities are facing in trying to end nearly a month of protests across the Tibetan region and the depth of anti-Chinese sentiment among a deeply Buddhist minority loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama.