Tibet annexation event stirs protest

April 09, 1991|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau of The Sun

BEIJING -- With the 40th anniversary of China's annexation of Tibet only six weeks away, Chinese plans to celebrate the date already are encountering some apparent opposition, according to recent reports from Tibet.

In the last few days, there have been reports of a demonstration by pro-independence Tibetans in eastern Tibet and of the ransacking of an army-run arsenal in Lhasa, Tibet's capital.

The one-day demonstration by more than 100 Tibetan monks, herdsmen and workers in Gongju County near Tibet's border with Sichuan Province was broken up by several hundred army troops, according to Chinese officials quoted by a Western news agency. About 20 protesters were detained after the late March incident but there were no serious injuries, the report said.

Following the looting of the arsenal and the killing of some of its guards on March 28, nine people have been arrested by the Lhasa Public Security Bureau, according to a Tibetan regional radio broadcast monitored Friday by the U.S. State Department.

That official broadcast claimed officials had recovered 19 pistols and 869 rounds of ammunition, the total amount stolen from the arsenal. The number of guards killed was not specified.

The two incidents come as China is promoting the May 23 anniversary of the signing of the 1951 agreement by which Tibet was officially brought under Beijing's rule.

China's state-run media have been full of reports in recent weeks about Tibet's economic gains under China's rule. These follow official reports during the last year of the arrests of several hundred Tibetan pro-independence activists for "counter-revolutionary" activities.

The recent incidents also come around the time of another key Tibetan anniversary, the last major pro-independence protest in Lhasa -- a three-day protest that ended on March 5, 1989, with police shootingto death dozens and wounding hundreds. After that protest, Lhasa was placed under martial law until May of last year.

Despite the lifting of martial law, the city remains under the scrutiny of a noticeable military presence, recent visitors, including American diplomats, say. Few foreign journalists have been officially allowed to visit Tibet in recent years.

Travel to Lhasa has been restricted this spring and Tibetan monks have not been allowed to leave some monasteries, according to some Western reports.

An American diplomat -- speaking on behalf of James R. Lilley, the U.S. ambassador to China, who visited Tibet early last week -- said yesterday that troops in riot gear and armored vehicles were evident early each morning outside the Jokhang Temple, the religious center of Lhasa around which Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims prostrate themselves.

The troops and armored vehicles, apparently in position overnight, were gone by 9 a.m. each day, the American spokesmen said.

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