Shots fired in Lhasa. Police isolate Tibetan monasteries
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - Chinese troops have surrounded and isolated the monasteries of Drepung, Sera, and Ganden in Lhasa, after the protests in recent days against Beijing domination over Tibet. Reports from foreigners in the Tibetan capital affirm that hundreds of people have taken to the streets in spite of the massive police presence. There have been shots fired against demonstrators, while monks are believed to have burned a police car. Various shops have also been burned, while telephone reports say that the police are searching many homes for monks who may be hidden there. More than ten monks have been arrested, and police cars patrol the square around the Potala building, the former residence of the Dalai Lama.
According to local sources, there are no fewer than three police lines in place around Drepung. The group International Campaign for Tibet says that no one can get through, not even tourists, and that fear and tension are rising in Lhasa.
The International Campaign for Tibet reports that hundreds of monks from the Labrang monastery in Gansu are also leading a protest march in the city of Xiahe.
On March 11, the 49th anniversary of the Chinese occupation, at least 600 monks from Drepung and Sera conducted peaceful protest marches. The police dispersed them with tear gas. It seems that they arrested many of them, and in Sera the monks have begun a hunger strike for their release.
Today, Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche of the Tibetan government in exile has repeated that the protest march that departed on March 10 from Dharamsala in India, directed toward Tibet via Nepal, is an independent initiative of five pro-Tibet groups, and that the government did not participate in it. The Dalai Lama, he added, is against any idea of boycotting the Olympics, which he believes can bring positive changes. Samdhong Rinpoche expressed "deep concern" over the Tibetans arrested in recent days in China. He also invited the organisers of the march to consider whether they should end it, out of respect for Indian law. The Indian authorities have blocked the march and have stated that they could detain the participants for 14 days. In response, the approximately 100 people stopped, at the police station in Kwala Mukhi, near Kangra, have proclaimed a hunger strike.
Meanwhile, international protests are growing against China, but also against India and Nepal, which have arrested pro-Tibet activists and monks who have protested against China. "Peaceful demonstrations", Human Rights Watch says, "are protected under international and domestic laws and they should be permitted, not violently dispersed".