Chinese fire on Tibetan protesters, 1 dead: advocacy group

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2012 9:39 AM
Chinese fire on Tibetan protesters, 1 dead: advocacy group

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese troops fired on thousands of Tibetans who staged a protest in southwestern Sichuan province Monday, killing one and wounding as many as 30 of the demonstrators, an overseas advocacy group said.

Free Tibet, a London-based group that campaigns for Tibetan self-determination, said in an emailed statement that up to several thousand Tibetans gathered at an intersection in Luhuo, about 590 kilometers west of Sichuan's capital of Chengdu, and marched on the local government offices, where security forces opened fire about midday.

The Tibetans were protesting the arrest earlier in the day of some Tibetans in connection with the distribution of pamphlets carrying the slogan, "Tibet needs Freedom," and stating that more Tibetans were ready to stage self-immolations.

The report could not be immediately verified. A staff member of the county public security bureau said he was not aware of any incident.

"There's nothing happening. I don't know about anything," he said, before abruptly hanging up.

Chinese security forces have been on edge after 16 incidents of self-immolation by ethnic Tibetans over the last year in response to growing resentment of Beijing's controls on religion. Some have called for the return of the Dalai Lama, their exiled Buddhist leader.

The western edge of Sichuan province where the recent unrest has been concentrated is dominated by ethnic Tibetans, and lies next to the official Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Free Tibet also said many Tibetans in the area decided not to celebrate the Lunar New Year, the most important Chinese holiday that began Monday, because of China's tight security grip on Tibet.

China's Foreign Ministry has branded the self-immolators "terrorists" and has said the Dalai Lama, whom it condemns as a supporter of violent separatism, should take the blame.

(Reporting by Ken Wills and Chris Buckley; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)