By Kathrin Hille in Beijing and Jamil Anderlini in Shanghai
January 23, 2012 5:50 pm
At least one Tibetan man was shot dead and more than 30 others were injured when Chinese security forces were trying to suppress a protest on Monday, according to Tibetan rights groups.
The incident is a further indication that the authorities are failing to quell spreading and escalating unrest in Tibetan areas despite a draconian crackdown.
“This is the largest reported shooting of Tibetans since 2008 and demonstrates the deepening crisis in Tibet,” said Stephanie Brigden, director at Free Tibet, a UK-based non-governmental group which campaigns for Tibetan self-determination.
Free Tibet said Yonten, a 49-year-old man, was shot in the head and 31 more had been shot and injured when Chinese security forces opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Draggo, an ethnically Tibetan settlement in the western Chinese province of Sichuan, at noon on Monday. International Campaign for Tibet, another rights group, said they had confirmed three deaths but did not have the names of the two others.
Tibetan rights groups quoted sources there as saying police arrested many Tibetans on Monday morning. The security forces accused them of threatening more self-immolations if the Chinese government ignored Tibetan concerns.
“Concerned and angered by the arbitrary arrest of Tibetans, other Tibetans in the Drango area rose up in protest this morning. The protesters, many of whom were farmers and nomads, carried Tibetan flags and shouted slogans for Tibetan freedom,” said the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, quoting a source. “The [Public Security Bureau] and People’s Armed Police then intervened by using guns to rein in the protesters, according to our source.”
Free Tibet said the protesters first gathered in an intersection and then marched towards local government offices, where the shooting happened. The group added that large numbers of Tibetans were reported to be travelling to Draggo from surrounding areas to join the demonstration, and large numbers of Tibetans are also gathering in Draggo monastery courtyard.
Since March 2011, 16 Tibetans, almost all of them monks or former monks and including two nuns, have set themselves on fire in Tibetan areas of Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. Twelve of them have died.
On January 8 the most senior monk so far, a living Buddha called Nyage Sonamdrugyu, set himself on fire and left a recording calling on his fellow Tibetans to unite against their Chinese rulers and thanking those who self-immolated for their nation.
The information on Monday’s protests could not be independently verified because the Chinese authorities have blocked access to Tibetan areas. A call to local police went unanswered.
Since the severe unrest in Tibetan areas in early 2008, China has struggled to contain a radicalisation of particularly young Tibetans. Many observers blame the escalating situation on Beijing’s brutal crackdown since then.
During the past few months, detailed witness accounts, pictures and video footage have emerged showing People’s Armed Police and Swat officers arresting and mistreating Tibetan monks.