03/15/2008, 00.00
TIBET - CHINA

Tanks in Lhasa, Beijing issues an ultimatum to the Tibetans

The Chinese government has confirmed the death of 10 people during clashes in recent days in Tibet, but accuses the demonstrators of their death. The government in exile says there are at least 100 victims; Tibetans in India resume their march to return home.

Lhasa (AsiaNews) - The Chinese government has confirmed overnight the death of at least 10 people during the clashes taking place in these days in Tibet, and has issued an ultimatum to the demonstrators: the protest must end by Monday "if they do not want even worse consequences".  The Tibetan government in exile instead cites "sources not yet confirmed" and speaks of at least 100 victims.

According to Xinhua - the official Chinese news agency - responsibility for the deaths should be attributed "to the demonstrators, who with their violent and antisocial behaviour have caused enormous damage to Tibet.  The victims are all innocent civilians, burned to death by the fires set by demonstrators".

According to some witnesses, the streets of Lhasa are today controlled by armed and armoured tanks.  Some battalions of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, in riot gear, have surrounded the walls of the capital's largest monasteries.  According to Radio Free Asia, several monks have been arrested.

The protests began last March 10, when hundreds of people - who have since grown to the thousands - demonstrated in Lhasa and in other parts of Tibet to commemorate the victims of the bloody repression in 1959, carried out by the communist government against the Tibetan population, which was asking for a return to independence.  During those revolts, the Dalai Lama - the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism - was forced into exile.

The Tibetan government, which since then has resided in India, yesterday recalled the peaceful nature of the demonstrations: "Guided by our monks, the Tibetan faithful wanted only to recall the thousands of victims who died during a bloody repression.  The repressive attitude of the Chinese government has unleashed the violence, which in any case the Dalai Lama forcefully condemns".

In the meantime, a second wave of Tibetans in exile has decided to oppose the orders of the Indian government and has resumed its march toward Tibet.  While 102 Tibetans are still in jail, a second group of 44 people left this morning from Dehra.

Chime Youngdrung, president of the national democratic party of Tibet, says: "The courageous protests of our brothers in [Tibet] have made us even more determined to continue this march and carry it to its conclusion.  Because we are witnesses of an escalation of violence on the part of the Chinese government in Lhasa, we believe that it is important for us to return home to reunite ourselves with our brothers and sisters who are fighting for survival under Chinese occupation".

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