Tibetans mark new year with protest in China
  • Mon, 02/15/2010 - 11:00

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Feb 15, 2010, 10:00 GMT

 Beijing - Some 400 Tibetans in south-western China's Sichuan province staged a sit-down protest to mark the start of the Tibetan lunar new year, a news report said on Tuesday.

The protest by monks and lay Tibetans in Sichuan's Ngaba county on Monday, the first day of the Year of the Tiger, led to a standoff with police, the pro-Tibetan independence website phayul.com said.

In the central square of Ngaba town, Tibetans 'said prayers and threw tsampa (barley flour) in the air to mourn the killings of several Tibetans in the 2008 protests,' the report quoted witnesses as saying.

A religious affairs official from nearby Kirti monastery, the home of many of the protesting monks, urged them to disperse.

Security forces later surrounded the protesters and confiscated the mobile phones of people seen taking video and photographs of the incident, the report said.

Military barricades were set up on the main routes into the square to prevent more protesters gathering, it said.

Tension has simmered in Ngaba since March 2008, when police admitted that they shot four Tibetans during violent anti-Chinese protests in the county town.

Exile groups allege that police killed up to 39 Tibetans in Ngaba.

Widespread Tibetan protests against Chinese rule began in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, in early March 2008 and spread to many other Tibetan areas of China in the following weeks.

The government said ethnic clashes in Lhasa left 18 people dead and hundreds injured in March 2008.

Since the 2008 protests, the government has tightened controls in Tibetan areas, turning away journalists, limiting access of foreign tourists and cutting off communications in some places.

Last month, leaders of China's ruling Communist Party outlined a 10-year economic and social development plan for Tibetans areas, which critics say will only consolidate Chinese control.

The Tibetan and Chinese lunar years usually start on different days, but this year they started on the same day for the 18th time since 1950, Chinese state media said.

More than 100,000 Tibetan pilgrims flocked Monday to Tibet's most important temple, the Jokhang in Lhasa, the official Xinhua news agency reported.