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Violence in Tibet

DW staff (tt)
March 15, 2008

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday, March 15, called for "peaceful and direct" dialogue between Beijing and the Tibetan spiritual leader over the ongoing unrest in the region.

Protesters gather around burning debris in the streets of Lhasa, Tibet
Protests led by Buddhist monks against the Chinese rule in Tibet turned violentImage: AP
Angela Merkel and Dalai Lama in Berlin
Merkel's official meeting with the Dalai Lama caused a rift in Germany's relation with ChinaImage: AP

"Violence, irrespective which side it comes from, will not lead to solutions to the outstanding issues," Merkel, who maintains close ties with the Dalai Lama, said through her official spokesman.

She called for both the demonstrators and the Chinese security forces to show moderation and to respect the rights of individuals.

"A lasting solution to the Tibet question can perhaps only be found through a peaceful and direct dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama," the chancellor's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said in a statement.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, is a popular figure in Germany.

Beijing cancelled a number of high-level meetings with German officials after Merkel last year became the first German chancellor to meet with the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese government views as a separatist.

Explosive situation

Chinese riot police with shield and batons stands guard on the road heading to historic Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, Gansu Province
The Chinese government deployed riot police to prevent further protestsImage: AP

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities on Saturday deployed troops and tanks in Lhasa, demanding that Tibetan rioters surrender to police or face more serious punishment for the violence that reportedly claimed dozens of lives following escalating pro-independence protests.

"We have unconfirmed reports that about 100 people have been killed and martial law imposed in Lhasa," the Tibetan government-in-exile, based in the Indian city of Dharamsala, said in a statement.

US-based Radio Free Asia on Saturday also quoted Tibetans in Lhasa as saying up to 80 people could have died in the rioting.

"There could be about 80 dead, or more, but there is too much commotion here to give an exact number," the broadcaster quoted one Tibetan witness as saying.

China acknowledges protests

State television on Saturday broadcast its first footage of the rioting, showing burning buildings and vehicles, and groups of protesters breaking into shops apparently unchallenged by police.

"The outbreak of violence died down in Lhasa Friday night, after a tumultuous day that saw windows smashed, shops robbed, a mosque burnt down and reportedly many casualties," the government's official Xinhua news agency said.

police are seen in Jokhang Square in Lhasa, Tibet
China wants to make sure that its grip on Tibet remains as tight as possibleImage: AP

The agency quoted officials as saying that at least 10 "innocent civilians," including two hotel employees and two shop owners, had died in some of the 60 fires recorded in the city on Friday.

"The number of injured and other losses kept rising" and "many policemen on duty were badly injured," it said without elaborating.

Paramilitary police rescued some 580 people, including three Japanese tourists, from banks, supermarkets, schools and hospitals that were set alight, it said.

The rioters would be treated leniently if they turned themselves in by midnight on Monday, and unspecified rewards and protection would be given to anyone providing information on the violence, said a joint notice from the high court, police and state prosecutors in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Germany rejects separatist aims

Protestors demonstrate for a free Tibet in front of the Chinese embassy in Berlin,
Protestors gathered in front of the Chinese embassy in Berlin on SaturdayImage: AP

Germany remains committed to religious and cultural autonomy for the Himalayan territory but is equally committed to a one-China policy that rejected any separatist aims, Merkel's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said.

On Monday, around 920 German cities and towns hoisted the Tibetan flag to back the territory's demand for cultural autonomy. The day was chosen to mark the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against China, which seized the Himalayan country in 1950-51.

On Friday the German Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning for Tibet in response to the protests.

"In view of the unclear situation, the foreign ministry advises against travel to the autonomous region of Tibet," a spokesman said.

Friday's rioting followed protests by Tibetan monks that began Monday, the 49th anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule that was crushed by troops.

The protests have since spread to several other monasteries in other Tibetan areas of China.

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