Saturday, March 15, 2008

China sets surrender deadline

Western governments have called for restraint, with Chinese tanks patrolling the streets of the Tibetan capital. (AFP)

China sets surrenders deadline
Posted 11 minutes ago
Updated 10 minutes ago (ABC News 15 March 2008 1:24 IST)

China has set a "surrender deadline", listed deaths and showed the first extensive television footage of rioting in the region's capital Lhasa, signalling a crackdown after the worst unrest in Tibet for two decades.

But a source close to the Tibetan self-proclaimed government-in-exile suggested China's official death toll of 10, which comes just months before the Beijing Olympics, may not tell the full story.

Moreover Tibet's government-in-exile says it has received "unconfirmed reports" of as many as 100 deaths in unrest in the Chinese-controlled Himalayan region.

"We have unconfirmed reports about 100 people had been killed and martial law imposed in Lhasa," said a statement from the government-in-exile, which is based in northern India.

It said it was "deeply concerned" by reports "emanating from all three regions of Tibet of random killings, injuries and arrest of thousands of Tibetans peacefully protesting against the Chinese policy."

Xinhua news agency said the 10 "innocent civilians" died in fires that accompanied bitter clashes in the remote, mountain capital on Friday. It said no foreigners died but gave few other details, and the report could not be verified.

Monday deadline

The source close to the Tibetan exile administration in India said at least five Tibetan protesters were shot dead by troops, and other groups supporting Tibetan independence have claimed many more may have died.

"Law enforcement authorities in China's Tibet Autonomous Region issued a notice on Saturday ... demanding the lawbreakers to give themselves in by Monday midnight, and promised that mitigation and leniency would be given to those who surrender," Xinhua said.

China has accused followers of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of masterminding the rioting, which has scarred its image of national harmony in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics and already sparked talk of a boycott.

The Olympic torch is to arrive in Lhasa in a matter of weeks.

Violence, destruction

Tibetan crowds in the remote mountain city attacked government offices, burnt vehicles and shops and threw stones at police on Friday in bloody confrontations that left many injured.

Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising over Lhasa and individual buildings ablaze.

Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government, told reporters in Beijing that Tibetan authorities had not fired any shots to quell the violence in Lhasa, which Xinhua said had "reverted to calm".

But the International Campaign for Tibet, a group that supports demands for Tibetan autonomy, cited unconfirmed reports of scores of Tibetans killed and hundreds of local university students arrested.

John Ackerly of the group said in an e-mailed statement he feared "hundreds of Tibetans have been arrested and are being interrogated and tortured".

Xinhua said its reporters in Lhasa on Friday saw many rioters "carrying backpacks filled with stones and bottles of inflammable liquids, some holding iron bars, wooden sticks and long knives, a sign that the crowd came fully prepared and meant harm".

- Reuters/AFP

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