January 16, 2012

Tibet: Protester Killed By Gunfire

Chinese security forces fired into a Tibetan crowd of protesters and caused the death of at least one person. 

Below is an article published by Hindustan Times

Chinese security forces on Saturday fired into a crowd of Tibetans in Sichuan Province as they tried to take away the body of a Tibetan man who died after self-immolation. This was claimed by reports from two Tibet advocacy groups and Tibetan officials in the exile government in India.

It appeared that at least two people had been hit by gunfire, and one of those might have been killed, said Kate Saunders, spokesperson for International Campaign for Tibet, which is based in Washington.

"The International Campaign for Tibet is calling upon the international community to press the Chinese authorities to use restraint as a matter of urgency," it said in a statement.

Saunders said the group had spoken to at least two sources.

Another group, Free Tibet, said it had confirmed reports that a Tibetan woman was shot.

There were unconfirmed reports that many others were also hit, said Stephanie Brigden, director of the group, which is based in London.

But China remained silent about the incident on Sunday, with local officials declining to confirm it took place.

The violence took place in the town of Aba, known in Tibetan as Ngaba, a focal point for protests against Chinese rule and the scene of civilian deaths during a widespread Tibetan uprising in 2008. Since then, it has been the site of at least 11 self-immolations, some of them fatal.

Those setting themselves on fire have mainly been monks, nuns or former members of the clergy. The monks in Aba who set themselves on fire all come from the Kirti Monastery, where anger has grown over Chinese repression of religious practices.

The self-immolation on Saturday was the 16th since March 2011, when Phuntsog, a monk at Kirti, set himself on fire and died. The wave of self-immolations in the past year was preceded by that of one monk from Kirti in the spring of 2009.

In total, at least 12 Tibetans have died through self-immolation since 2009, if the death on Saturday is confirmed. Scholars of modern Tibet say the self-immolations represent a new and disturbing protest strategy among the clergy.

Witnesses reported that the police began beating the man after putting out his flames. "Tibetans became very angry and gathered in what seems to be an impromptu demonstration," Saunders said in an e-mail.

The Tibetan government-in-exile in India issued a statement saying 700 people had surrounded the police station after the police took away the body of the person who had set himself on fire. "China must take full responsibility for these cases of self-immolation. It is within its power to end these unfortunate incidents by adopting liberal policies for Tibet."

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