Tibet poised to erupt as festival comes to a climax

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 May, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 May, 1993, 12:00am


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TIBET could erupt into violence again within the next few days as a Buddhist festival reaches its climax in the region's capital, Lhasa, locals warned yesterday.

As the Chinese army maintained a high profile in the city yesterday, some Tibetans said protests against Beijing's rule and recent price rises could be sparked off again at the weekend.

Three locals were feared dead, one boy was badly injured and scores of people, including tourists, were arrested after troops put down demonstrations last week.

''Everything has quietened down now and things are back to almost normal, but that could change in a moment,'' said one Tibetan man, who added that Saturday, when the 15-day Sakadowa festival ends, could be a turning point.

''Many people will be put off from taking to the streets after what happened last week, but the end of the festival could change that.

''I think people coming to worship could get carried away and start to call for the end of Chinese rule.

''Tibetans are very religious. We want the Dalai Lama to come back here and believe that it will only happen when the Chinese go.'' But the decision to revoke or stagger recent price rises could help keep the city calm, he said.

''The price rises have hit Tibetans hard. We are very poor and cannot afford increases in food and fuels.

''If the Chinese stopped these increases, it would take the sting out of the independence movement because they have been able to take over the demonstrations which were originally only about the increases.'' Another local, who would only talk in the side streets of Lhasa for fear of being watched by plain-clothes Chinese security officials, said the peace was fragile.

''The Chinese have brought extra troops into Lhasa over the past few weeks, but they will not be able to control the people if they all rise. Saturday may be the day when that happens,'' he said.