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China denies crackdown on Tibetans
March 17, 2008 11:49 IST
Dismissing claims of a violent crackdown on pro-Independence protests in Tibet, China on Monday said that 13 "innocent civilians" were killed and 61 policemen injured in riots that erupted last week in Lhasa coinciding with the anniversary of the 1959 failed uprising against its rule.
Qiangba Puncog, chairman of Tibet Autonomous Regional Government, said rioters attacked the police personnel who did not use any weapons or open fire and 13 innocent civilians were "burned or stabbed to death".
The government had earlier said that 10 people were killed and 12 injured in Friday's violence which prompted a massive massive police and military deployment in the Tibetan capital.
"Rioters attacked public security personnel in an extremely cruel way while they were maintaining order and refrained from using weapons," Qiangba told reporters here, a day after top Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama [Images] demanded an international probe into the Chinese clampdown and accused Beijing [Images] of unleashing "cultural genocide" in Tibet.
"I can tell you as a responsible official that guns were absolutely not fired. The PLA was not involved at all in dealing with incident," the chairman said, referring to China's People's Liberation Army.
The chairman said the "plot" hatched jointly by "domestic and overseas separatists who are advocating Tibet independence" to attract publicity at a time when China was preparing for Olympics [Images] was "doomed to failure".
With the deadline asking Tibetan protesters to surrender ending today, Qiangba issued a fresh warning saying that those involved in "serious crimes" during the unrest would be dealt harshly.
"Those who have committed serious crimes will be dealt with harshly.... If they turn themselves in, they will be dealt with leniently. If they provide further information about others involved, they will be treated even more leniently," the chairman said.
"These lawless people and criminals have resorted in recent days to extreme and radical means precisely to create publicity for their position at a sensitive time as we are preparing for the Olympics," said Qiangba.
Sixty-one police were injured in the riot, six of them seriously, he said.
In one case, the chairman claimed rioters beat a patrol policeman and then cut a piece of flesh from his buttock.
"The rioters beat a police officer on patrol until he was into coma, and rioters cut out a piece of flesh, as big as a fist, from the his buttock," he said.
Protests continued in several parts of the world to press for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in August.
Hundreds of Tibetan activists staged a protest outside the Chinese consulate in New York yesterday chanting "Free Tibet Now". About 500 people carrying Tibetan flags and candles gathered in Paris as a large police contingent kept a vigil outside the Chinese embassy.
In Prague, about 500 demonstrators gathered outside the Chinese embassy while some 250 protestors staged a protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Rome.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the developments in Tibet were disturbing and joined international community in calling on Beijing to exercise restraint.
The Tibetan governor said that rioters in Lhasa had set blaze more than 300 building, including residential houses and 214 shops, and smashed and burned 56 vehicles.
He said some monks threw stones at patrolling police Friday morning near Ramogia Monastery in Lhasa, which was followed by "wider attacks of local mobs on not only law enforcers but also ordinary people and businesses".
"Any plots to destroy social stability or to mastermind secession of Tibet are against the will of the people in Tibet and doomed to failure," Qiangba said.
He said the security personnel showed restraint in the entire process of handling the incident. They didn't carry or use any destructive weapons in confronting with the rioters, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Meanwhile, a local official said no foreigner had been harmed in the riots and authorities will take necessary measures to help tourists who want to leave and to ensure their safety. Twenty tourists had left till yesterday.
The Lhasa police rescued more than 580 people, including three Japanese tourists, from the violent array of sabotage, Xinhua reported.
"The government of Tibet Autonomous Region has attached great importance to the safety of lives and property of foreign experts working in Tibet, foreign students and tourists," said Ju Jianhua, director of the autonomous region's foreign affairs office.
"Currently, foreigners in Tibet are quite safe. And they have been well protected."
For those foreigners who demand to leave, the office will coordinate civil aviation, railway and highway departments to provide convenience for them, Ju was quoted as saying. The office will also contact with tourism departments to adjust travel routes and provide services to ensure their safety, the official said.