House raids as troops try to stop protests

Harsh ? a monk is beaten in Kathmandu amid protests by Tibetan refugees  in Nepal.

Harsh ? a monk is beaten in Kathmandu amid protests by Tibetan refugees in Nepal.
Photo: Reuters

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CHINA has mobilised thousands of troops throughout Tibetan enclaves in attempts to avert a bloodbath as students joined monks and local Tibetans in spontaneous protests before Beijing's midnight deadline for those involved in protests against Chinese rule in Lhasa to surrender.

Tourists and other foreigners, including media, were expelled from China's Tibetan areas as police and army searched hotels and guesthouses and threatened house-to-house searches for non-locals to prevent more of the violent confrontations that have flared in reaction to the Lhasa protests.

Police in neighbouring Nepal used bamboo batons to disperse about 100 Tibetan protesters and Buddhist monks in Kathmandu yesterday, and arrested about 30 people.

The monasteries have been ordered by Beijing to stop monks from joining protests. The military was sent to seal off Tibetan towns and villages, and block routes from Lanzhou into the southern area of Gansu. In the Sichuan region of Aba, close to the Gansu border, monks in Xiahe said they had been told that at least 10 bodies were brought to the Kerti monastery after violent clashes on Sunday. The Herald could not confirm this.

The India-based Tibetan parliament-in-exile claimed yesterday that hundreds of Tibetans had died. "The massive demonstrations that started from March 10 in the capital city of Lhasa and other regions of Tibet, resulting [in the] death of hundreds of Tibetans ? needs to be brought to the attention of the United Nations," a statement said.

An Aba resident told Reuters fresh protests flared at two Tibetan schools yesterday, with hundreds of students facing off against police and troops. The resident said 18 people were killed when troops opened fire on Sunday, and a policeman was burnt to death.

In the Gansu capital of Lanzhou, students at the Northwest Minority University campus were discussing holding more protests after a weekend sit-down by about 200 students. In Hezuo, in southern Gansu, police yesterday forcibly put down a student protest at a Tibetan high school.

The involvement of students is likely to heighten Beijing's alarm over Tibetan unrest given the sensitivity about the Tiananmen Square student protests of 1989 that ended in a bloody crackdown.

Beijing has spent almost half a century trying to integrate Tibetans into Communist China's vision of a nation of a Han Chinese majority living peacefully with a melting pot of "happy ethnic minorities", but resentment runs deep among Tibetans.

The Herald was stopped at a checkpoint just outside the town of Linxia on the way to Hezuo yesterday. The polite young police officer said all foreigners were being asked to leave the area and return to Lanzhou, Gansu's biggest city.

Hotels have been banned from registering foreign guests and businesses have been ordered to refuse to serve foreigners.

So far police have not detained foreign media for long periods but have advised them to leave "for their own protection".

More than a dozen Hong Kong journalists were put on a flight out of Tibet, accused of "illegal reporting".

In the southern Gansu town of Machu, a crowd of 300 to 400 carried pictures of the Dalai Llama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, and shouted slogans as they marched on government buildings, breaking windows and doors and setting fire to Chinese shops and businesses, the Free Tibet Campaign said.

Qiangba Puncog, the government chief in Tibet, told a Beijing press conference yesterday that 13 "innocent civilians" had died and dozens of security personnel were injured in Lhasa when several days of monk-led protests turned into riots on Friday.

He released gory details of knife-wielding protesters in Lhasa attacking police and passers-by, but his account could not be independently confirmed.

with agencies