Tibet's chief criticises mobs for violence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2008, 12:00am

Blame laid on 'Dalai Lama clique'

The head of the Tibetan regional government condemned the cruelty of mobs responsible for the violence in Lhasa on Friday, as state media broadcast footage of survivors telling their horror stories in hospital.

Qiangba Puncog - the Tibet Autonomous Region's chairman, the equivalent of a provincial governor - told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress yesterday morning that violent mobs 'linked to the Dalai Lama clique' were behind the killings, fires and vandalism.

The riots spread to three other Tibetan-populated provinces in the biggest opposition to Beijing's rule in almost two decades, since a larger uprising was suppressed and martial law imposed in March 1989.

'What I especially want to point out is ... the means the violent mobs used were so cruel that they make one bristle with anger,' Qiangba Puncog said.

He said the mob had poured petrol and had set people on fire, and had 'cut a piece of flesh the size of a fist' out of a policeman's buttocks after beating him unconscious.

The chairman put the death toll in the violence of the past week at 16 - 13 'innocent civilians' and three who died jumping out of buildings to avoid arrest.

Dozens of police and 61 armed police were injured, 10 seriously, trying to quell the disturbances, Qiangba Puncog said.

The mob set fire to more than 300 places and burned down 214 shops or houses, he said.

Qiangba Puncog's accusations were featured prominently on major mainland news portals while state-run China Central Television repeatedly showed footage of survivors' accounts on its satellite channel.

The footage showed Peng Xiaobo, who was being treated in the Tibet Autonomous Region People's Hospital, shedding tears as he recalled how his 18-year-old cousin was burnt to death after a mob set his shops on fire on Friday afternoon.

'At first it was a big explosion. Fire spread in the house quickly, and smoke was everywhere. We were forced to jump off the building to escape,' said Mr Peng, an apparel wholesale businessman who had four shops that were set on fire.

'My cousin, who just turned 18 in December, was too afraid to jump, so she used the stairs. A stair broke suddenly, and she was stuck in the middle. She was burnt to death.'

Seven family members were in the house when the fire started. His uncle and cousin were killed, and his wife broke her spine, Mr Peng said.

Luosang Ciren, a Tibetan doctor who had facial bruises and could hardly open his swollen left eye, told CCTV he and his ambulance were attacked when he tried to save the injured on the street.

He said he was trying to give first aid to a child who was not breathing and had no pulse when 'the outlaws' stopped the ambulance.

'We said we were medics, but they didn't care,' he said. 'They smashed our vehicle and beat us up.'