Things turned violent yesterday in the Tibetan capital:
BEIJING, March 15 — Hundreds of protesters swarmed Tibet’s capital Friday, clashing with police and setting fire to shops and cars in a spasm of violence worse than any there in nearly 20 years. Ten people were confirmed dead, and doctors reported dozens of injured streaming into hospitals as Lhasa descended into what one witness called “a state of siege.”
By nightfall, armored personnel carriers had rolled into the center of the city. “The army is everywhere,” said a hotel worker, who added that he was afraid to go outside.
The violence came after five days of escalating protests against Chinese rule in the remote mountainous region, the heart of Tibetan Buddhism. The confrontations, initially led by monks, were joined Friday by hundreds of Tibetan laypeople, who began attacking shops owned by ethnic Han and Hui Chinese. Street fights between Tibetans and Chinese continued into the night, according to reports from the region. Of the 10 people confirmed dead, a number were “business people,” according to a report Saturday by the government-controlled New China News Agency.
The crisis exposed the anger Tibetans have long felt, but rarely were able to express openly, over Chinese domination. Although ethnic Chinese are a minority in Tibet, they are far better off economically. Tibetans also resent efforts by the central government in Beijing to bind their homeland to the rest of the country — including the recent opening of a luxury train line to funnel tourists to Lhasa.
With the world watching now, it will be interesting to see how far China is willing to go.
Update: Apparently, the Chinese are upping the ante:
BEIJING (Reuters) – China set a “surrender” deadline after riots in Lhasa that it said killed 10 innocent people, launching a crackdown on Saturday after the worst unrest in Tibet for two decades.
The response came after torrid protests on Friday which flew in the face of official claims the region was immune from unrest as Beijing readies to hold the Olympic Games in August.
Xinhua news agency said 10 “innocent civilians” were shot or burnt to death in fires that accompanied street clashes in the remote, mountain capital on Friday. It said no foreigners died, and the dead included two people killed with shotguns.
Tibetan law-and-order departments offered leniency for rioters who turned themselves in by Monday midnight.
“Criminals who do not surrender themselves by the deadline will be sternly punished according to the law,” stated the notice on the Tibetan government Web site (www.tibet.gov.cn). It added that those who “harbor or hide” them also face harsh treatment.
Sounds like an ultimatum to me.