Yunnan tourist area swept by unrest after policeman killed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2009, 12:00am


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Hundreds of armed police were sent to Yunnan's Shangri-La tourist area after unrest triggered by the killing of a local police officer, a human rights watchdog said yesterday.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported that a drunken police officer was killed in a scuffle with people at a karaoke bar in Shangri-La county on August 28.

The news of the unrest in the Tibetan-populated area comes less than a month before the sensitive 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic - on October 1 - and amid continued ethnic volatility in Xinjiang .

The report said both Han and Tibetan suspects were arrested after the brawl, prompting violent clashes between family and friends of the victim and the suspects. Han and Tibetans fought on the same side.

Nearly 1,000 armed police and 30 armoured vehicles were sent in afterwards to prevent any escalation of the violence.

The report said staff at a hotel in Shangri-La - which was renamed from Zhongdian county in 2001 in an attempt to cash in on tourists who travel in search of the mythical earthly paradise - confirmed the deployment of armed police in the area.

A taxi driver said he had not heard about the conflict, but armed police were all over Zhongdian city. 'I came across a convoy of over 20 armed police trucks heading for Kunming at noon on August 29,' said the driver, a Tibetan.

'No one was sure about what was happening. Some said the soldiers had come here to prepare for any trouble following some mass incidents in the Tibetan area of Sichuan in recent days.'

It was not immediately clear what happened in the Tibetan-inhabited areas, but the information centre reported that about 5,000 public security officers and specially trained forces from across the nation had been sent to several Tibetan-populated regions and provinces, including Tibet , Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu .

Caijing magazine reported that a similar number of specially trained police had been sent to Urumqi to take up security duties after rioting in the Xinjiang capital on July 5 that claimed nearly 200 lives.

Riots broke out in the mountainous Aba county in northwestern Sichuan, and the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southern Gansu, in the aftermath of the violent unrest in Lhasa in March last year that left 18 dead and injured hundreds.

The watchdog also quoted people who had visited Aba county recently as saying the area was still extremely tense, with heavily armed police a highly visible presence and armoured vehicles patrolling.