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Riots roll beyond Tibet

March 16: Violence spilled over from Tibet into neighbouring provinces today as Tibetans defied a crackdown and China spoke of a “people’s war” to crush the protest.

Protests were reported in Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces. All are home to Tibetan populations.

The demonstrations came after five days of protests in Lhasa escalated into violence on Friday with Buddhist monks and others torching police cars and shops in the fiercest challenge to Beijing’s rule over the region in two decades.

As the government’s Monday deadline for the protesters to surrender approached, China lapsed into prose laced with customary pyrotechnics.

“We must wage a people’s war to beat splittism and expose and condemn the malicious acts of these hostile forces and expose the hideous face of the Dalai Lama group to the light of day,” political and security chiefs in Tibet were quoted as saying.

The details emerging from witness accounts and government statements suggested Beijing was preparing a methodical campaign — one that if carefully modulated would minimise bloodshed and avoid wrecking Beijing’s grand plans for the Olympics.

The calculated mix of threats and inducements underscored the difficulties the communist leadership faces in trying to quell a serious challenge to its 57-year rule in Tibet.

Supporters of the Dalai Lama said 80 people had been killed during the protests in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and at least another 72 injured.

The violence erupted just two weeks before China’s Olympic celebrations kick off with the start of the torch relay, which will pass through Tibet. The Games are scheduled to be held in August.

A resident of Aba county in Sichuan, who refused to give his name, said there was a clash between Tibetan monks and armed police. He said one policeman had been killed and three or four police vans had been set on fire.

“They (the protesters) have gone crazy,” said a police officer in Aba county, her voice trembling down the telephone. The officer, who declined to be named, said a crowd of Tibetans hurled petrol bombs, burning down a police station and a market in the county’s main town, and set fire to two police cars and a fire truck.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said at least seven people have been fatally shot in the county. There was no way of immediately confirming the claim.

In Qinghai, 100 monks defied a directive confining them to Rongwo Monastery by climbing a hill behind it, where they set off fireworks.

The act raised tensions. Businesses were shuttered and about 30 riot policemen with shields took up posts near the monastery. Police forced journalists to delete photographs of the riot squads. In Gansu, over 100 students protested at a university in Lanzhou.

Hong Kong Cable TV said about 200 military vehicles, each carrying dozens of armed soldiers, drove into the centre of Lhasa today.

China suspended foreign travel permits to Tibet out of “safety concerns”.

(Written with agency reports)

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