Reports: Chinese Police Open Fire on Tibetan Protesters

Posted January 23rd, 2012 at 3:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Witnesses and Tibetan advocacy groups say police in southwestern China opened fire on several thousand Tibetan demonstrators Monday, killing at least one person and wounding many others.

An exiled monk who spoke by phone Monday with witnesses told VOA the confrontation took place in western Sichuan province . He said the wounded are being sheltered in a nearby monastery, and that the confrontation was ongoing at the point he lost contact with the witnesses.

The rights group Free Tibet, which campaigns for Tibetan autonomy, says the Tibetan demonstrators were marching to local government offices when security forces opened fire.

Another advocacy group, the International Campaign for Tibet, says three people were killed and nine were wounded when police fired into the crowd.

There has been no official comment from Chinese authorities.

The heavily Tibetan region has been hit by ongoing protests and a series of self-immolations by Tibetan Buddhists demanding an end to widely perceived religious and cultural repression by Chinese authorities.

The monks and their followers also are demanding the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

At least 16 Tibetans, including monks, former monks and nuns, have died in self-immolation protests since March 2011. Thousands of monks subsequently were arrested by security forces and taken to unknown locations.

The Tibetans demonstrating Monday were said to be protesting the earlier arrests of some activists distributing pamphlets calling for Tibetan freedom from Chinese rule. The pamphlets also warned that more Tibetans are ready to set themselves on fire to protest the Chinese crackdown.

Free Tibet says many Tibetans in the region also boycotted Chinese New Year's celebrations to protest Chinese policy toward Tibet.