China Criticizes ‘Hyped’ Reports of Tibetan Clashes

Posted January 24th, 2012 at 7:50 am (UTC-5)
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China on Tuesday accused foreign human rights organizations of exaggerating recent clashes between Tibetan demonstrators and police in southwestern China.

Tibetan advocacy groups and witnesses said Monday that police in Sichuan province opened fire on several thousand unarmed Tibetan demonstrators in a county called Luhuo by China and Draggo by Tibetans.

But foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei on Tuesday called those reports “hyped” , saying the clash involved only “dozens of protesters.” He said the unrest started when protesters began destroying stores and attacking police with rocks and knives.

The organization Free Tibet said one person was killed and at least 30 others wounded, while the International Campaign for Tibet said three were killed and nine wounded.

China's official Xinhua news agency quoted local officials as saying one person was killed and five police officers wounded when a clash broke out over the presumed self-immolation of a monk.

Several reports from international news organizations said the situation had calmed on Tuesday.

The heavily Tibetan region of Sichuan 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.

John Powers, a regional analyst at the Australian National University, told VOA the Tibetans are caught in a vicious cycle of demonstrations, violence, mass arrests and repression that fails to redress Tibetan grievances.

“Tibetans are looking for some sort of angle that will draw both the attention of the Chinese authorities and world attention to their situation, which is very bad and getting worse. The self-immolations that are happening, which are up to 16 now, is very clear indication of the desperation the Tibetans are feeling, and how little options they feel themselves as having.”

Powers says Chinese authorities are likely to consider any sort of protest by Tibetans calling for freedom from Chinese rule a provocation.

“These things need to be put in context. In China, that sort of thing is reason for either executing people or putting them in prison for a long time. These sorts of activities in an open society wouldn't even be noticed. At the very most, they might attract a fine. But in China you can be killed for it.”

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.