Chinese police ‘fire at Tibetan protesters demanding release of villager'

Residents were demanding release of villager 'arrested for refusing order to fly national flag'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 October, 2013, 2:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 8:27am

Security forces fired into a crowd of Tibetan residents who were demanding the release of a fellow villager detained for protesting against orders to display the national flag, a US-backed broadcaster reported yesterday.

Police also fired tear gas at those protesting on Sunday in Biru county in Tibet and dozens were injured, Radio Free Asia said in its report yesterday.

The report, citing unnamed local and exiled Tibetan sources, could not be independently confirmed.

Local Communist Party and government officials either could not be reached by phone or hung up shortly after answering.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) earlier reported that authorities had intensified the security presence in Biru county and nearby areas after residents refused orders to display Chinese flags to commemorate National Day on October 1.

The ICT, a Tibetan rights group, said government work teams had been sent to Biru, known as Driru in Tibetan, ahead of the national holiday to compel local Tibetan residents to fly the flag as part of an intensified effort to enforce loyalty to the party.

In Sunday's unrest, protesters were calling for the release of a local resident, Dorje Draktsel, who was detained last week after participating in demonstrations against the flag order, the Radio Free Asia report said.

The self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile based in India said it has received reports of a shooting incident in Driru but had few details to provide. Spokesman Tashi Phuntsok said exiled Tibetans had heard that some protesters were injured but did not know how many.

China has claimed Tibet as part of its territory for centuries while Tibetans say they were largely independent before the occupation by communist troops in 1950.

Many Tibetans say Beijing's economic policies in the Himalayan region have largely benefited only Han migrants and that they resent strict limits on Buddhism and Tibetan culture that the government imposes.

China says it has made vast investments to boost the region's economy and improve the quality of life for Tibetans.

At least 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in the autonomous region as well as in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces since February 2009 in protests against what they see as Chinese oppression, according to the Washington-based ICT.

Late last month, a Tibetan man from Sichuan died after setting himself on fire.

Meanwhile, in mainly Muslim Xinjiang , an official newspaper said more than 100 people had been detained from late June to the end of August for the spread of "religious extremism".

The detentions, reported by the Xinjiang Daily, are the latest in an official campaign in Xinjiang to police the spread of ideas critical of government rule in addition to pouring troops into the restive region.

The German-based Uygur activist Dilxadi RexitI said Chinese authorities used such charges as an excuse to crack down on Uygurs who go on the internet to express their unhappiness about government repression.

Xinjiang sees periodic outbreaks of anti-government and anti-Chinese violence, some of it inspired by resentment over economic marginalisation by ethnic Han migrants.