Tibet suspects put on parade as deterrent

Violence spreads ? a shop is destroyed during protests in
Maqu, Gansu province, on Tuesday.

Violence spreads ? a shop is destroyed during protests in Maqu, Gansu province, on Tuesday.
Photo: AP

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Chris Buckley in Beijing
March 21, 2008

AUTHORITIES in Tibet have announced the arrest of 24 suspects on charges of endangering state security and other "grave crimes", after riots swept the capital, Lhasa, intensifying a crackdown on anti-Chinese unrest.

Authorities paraded alleged rioters on television on Wednesday night and also issued a "wanted" list of 12 faces seen on security cameras during last Friday's disturbances in Lhasa.

China's official news agency Xinhua reported that 170 rioters had surrendered to police by late on Wednesday. Chinese officials had promised to be lenient with those who handed themselves in by midnight on Monday, and harsh to those who did not.

Prosecutors in Lhasa said the two dozen suspects were arrested for "endangering national security as well as beating, smashing, looting, arson and other grave crimes", the official Tibet Daily reported yesterday. State security crimes usually draw harsh penalties and even execution.

State-controlled Tibet TV said those in detention should be "seriously punished" to ensure others respected the law, as it screened footage of several line-ups and the confessions of two men. Three of those held appeared to be monks.

In one sequence, paramilitary police marched suspects in handcuffs, forcing one man's head to a table as he signed and fingerprinted an unidentified document at the prosecutors' office.

In another sequence a man, identified as Pobo Tseringma, said: "We believed other people's rumours ? I did things I regret." Another man, Dorje Tseringma, said a crowd threatened to set his house on fire if he did not take part in the riots.

The on-air parade came as China tightened it crackdown on protests that have swept Tibet and neighbouring provinces with large ethnic Tibetan populations. Xinhua said on Thursday that "great damage" had been done on Sunday to shops and government offices in Aba county, Sichuan province, confirming earlier accounts of severe unrest there.

Huge military convoys have been seen heading to Tibet, and a build-up of troops is also taking place in the nearby western provinces. Witnesses said yesterday they had seen hundreds of military trucks pouring into Tibet. China has expelled foreign journalists from Lhasa, and tried to block them from the provinces.

China says the unrest was instigated by the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama to sabotage Beijing's Olympic Games in August, a claim he has rejected, while calling for an end to violence.

Yesterday China expressed concern at a planned meeting between the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the Dalai Lama. "As we have repeatedly pointed out, the Dalai is a political refugee engaged in activities of splitting China under the camouflage of religion," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, according to Xinhua.

Prince Charles said he would also meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to London in May, a royal spokesman said.

Xinhua says the anti-Chinese riots and looting in Lhasa injured 325 people and caused about $US28 million ($30 million) in damage. China has said that 13 innocent people and at least three rioters died. Independent witnesses reported vicious attacks on Han Chinese and Hui Muslims, as well as arson and criminal damage to businesses, homes and government property. Exiled Tibetan groups have said that as many as 100 Tibetans died.

Reuters, Guardian News & Media, Agence France-Presse