A CHINESE driver was killed when a group of Tibetan prisoners escaped while being transferred between prisons last month, according to Tibetans arriving in India. Four of the escapees had been arrested for protesting against China's appointment of a new Panchen Lama, the first reports of such arrests since a six-year-old child was enthroned with official approval last December. The ceremony contradicted the Dalai Lama's recognition last May of another boy as the lama's reincarnation. The killing took place around January 22 on the road between the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and the town of Powo Tramo, 600 kilometres to the east, the site of Tibet's No 2 prison, in an area known as Kongpo, or Linzhi in Chinese. The group of 10 Tibetan prisoners was being transferred by truck from various prisons in Lhasa. The prisoners, who included a former soldier convicted of helping refugees escape to India, threw chilli powder in the eyes of the two armed guards in the back of the truck and then fought with the driver. The driver was killed, apparently when the truck crashed into a river, where he drowned. It is not clear if his death was an accident or a deliberate killing. In December 1995, Lobsang Gawa, 52, and Tenzin Yeshe, 34, both monks from Toelung Tsome, 40 km northwest of Lhasa, had put up a poster in their village about the Panchen Lama dispute. They were being taken to Kongpo to serve three-year prison sentences, according to their claims. Two other monks - Kalsang Wangdu, 50, and Jampa Damdrul, 29, from Lhokha Trandrug - say they had been arrested in early January for criticising the authenticity of the Chinese-approved Panchen Lama. All four claim to have served earlier sentences, apparently for involvement in political protests, in the late 1980s. Some escapees said they were being transferred for spreading dissent in Lhasa prisons. The death of the Chinese driver came as reports of violence in Tibet increase, with a bomb being set off at the house of a Tibetan lama regarded as a pro-Chinese sympathiser on January 18, seriously injuring one person.