- Sat, 01/14/2012 - 19:58
Chinese security forces are believed to have shot dead a Tibetan woman in southwestern Sichuan province on Saturday in a confrontation following another self-immolation to protest Beijing's rule, according to advocacy groups and exile sources.
There may have been more casualties during the confrontation between hundreds of Tibetan protesters and Chinese police after a Tibetan man set himself on fire and possibly died in restive Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture, rights groups said.
Tibet's exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), said the violence triggered off when police took away the man's body and refused to hand it over to his relatives.
"Approximately 700 individuals from the local community surrounded the police station demanding that the body be released," the CTA said in a statement from its office in Dharamsala, India.
"Following the refusal of the police to do so, a confrontation ensued and an elderly Tibetan woman was reportedly shot dead by the police," it said.
The CTA condemned "the use of violence against civilians and appeals the international community to intervene so as to restrain the Chinese government from further use of violence."
London-based advocacy group Free Tibet said it "can confirm that at least one woman has been shot" and added that "further unconfirmed reports allege that many people have been shot."
It cited an eyewitness as describing the situation as "terrifying," saying that “a strong gas” was used on the crowd.
“Many had fallen to the ground” and people were beaten, according to the eyewitness. An uncertain number of people are believed to have been detained.
The self-immolation on Saturday was the 16th case since March of last year amid growing tensions in Tibetan regions of China where people have been protesting against Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.
Eleven of the self-immolations occurred in Ngaba.
Stephanie Brigden, Director of Free Tibet said the latest incident has "terrified" the people of Ngaba.
“There have been large numbers of Chinese security forces, including the paramilitary People’s Armed Police, deployed there since the first self-immolation last year. Locals are frightened about how the situation will be resolved and there are rising concerns over further injuries or fatalities,” she said.
A woman from the Ngaba traffic police told Agence France-Presse by telephone that it was normal to have more police on the street at this time of year.
"It is getting closer to Spring Festival and we do have police on the street. For the same reason, there are less tourists. But we have normal order here," she said, declining to give her name
The CTA on Saturday requested the international community, the United Nations, and "liberal Chinese intellectuals" to send observers "to assess the current ground reality."
It said the Chinese authorities "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 and Tibetan people."
Tensions in the Tibet Autonomous Region and in Tibetan-populated areas in China's provinces have not subsided since anti-China protests swept through the Tibetan Plateau in March 2008.
Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for the tense situation, saying he is encouraging the self-immolations, which run contrary to Buddhist teachings.
But the Dalai Lama blamed China's "ruthless and illogical" policy toward Tibet.
He called on the Chinese government to change its "repressive" policies in Tibet, citing the crackdown on monasteries and policies curtailing the use of the Tibetan language.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.