Wednesday, July 17, 2013

• Chinese police open fire on unarmed Tibetans

Chinese paramilitary police on Saturday opened fire on unarmed Tibetans gathered to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday, according to Tibetan rights groups.
The crackdown could mark an escalation of China’s harsh security measures in Tibetan areas.

It also casts doubt on hopes for big change in Beijing’s handling of its relations with the restive minority. Two monks were shot in the head and several other Tibetans severely injured in the incident which occurred in Ganzi, Sichuan province, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, a rights group, and Phayul, a web portal run by exiled Tibetans said on Tuesday.

One of the monks is reportedly in critical condition. The area has been a flashpoint for Tibetan protests against oppression, expressed through more than 100 self-immolations, including several in Ganzi itself. The groups said local Tibetans and monks and nuns from other areas had gathered on Saturday and were making offerings on a mountain slope where they had put up a picture of the Dalai Lama, the exiled religious leader revered by the Tibetans but reviled by the Chinese authorities as a “splittist”.
According to the reports, People’s Armed Police – the paramilitary force used for crowd control – tried to break up the gathering.

“Some Tibetans present argued that burning incense was not a crime. Without warning, according to several Tibetan sources, police opened fire on the unarmed crowd and used teargas,” ICA said. Phayul reported that the paramilitary police started shooting after a monk whose sister, a nun, set herself on fire in 2011 tried to drive past their security blockade. Although the government frequently moves harshly against protesters in Tibetan areas, police do not normally use guns. A call to the local government went unanswered on Tuesday.

The incident comes after claims from some Tibetan rights groups last month that Beijing had started to alter its policy of banning the display of pictures of the Dalai Lama in some areas. The government quickly crushed hopes with a text message to Tibetans stating that nothing had changed. But there have been signs of debate on Tibet policy in the ruling Communist party, with a professor at the elite Central Party School taking the unusual step last month to publicly urge a rethink of the government’s approach to the minority.

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