Tension in Tibet as police raid homes

Chinese police are sweeping through the homes of Lhasa residents in search of people involved in recent protests in the city.

While streets in the Tibetan capital are reported to be quiet and empty, there are continued reports of unrest in neighbouring Chinese provinces with large populations of Tibetans.  According to reports from  the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, hundreds of Tibetans converged on the streets in Kardze County, Sichuan Province, with the situation reported to be extremely tense. There were also reports of demonstrations in Gansu province.

The atmosphere in Lhasa has been reported by some to be “terrifying”, with police and soldiers conducting house-to-house searches and taking people into custody. There is now great concern for the well-being of those detained.

The government imposed a deadline of midnight on Monday 17 March for individuals involved in the protests to turn themselves in, threatening to “severely punish” those who failed to do so.  Eyewitnesses have reported that some individuals are being dragged out of their homes and Tibetans who have pictures of the Dalai Lama in their homes are being taken away.

Official Chinese sources say 13 “innocent civilians” have been killed by the Tibetan rioters. Tibetan exile sources say 99 Tibetans have been killed by the armed police forces.

The Chinese authorities have imposed a near-total block on information from Tibet and the surrounding areas. The authorities have also cut off internet and mobile phone connections within Tibet. When foreign news reports about Tibet come up on foreign news broadcasting in China, they are censored –  the screen going black.

Amnesty International has called on the Chinese authorities to avoid the use of excessive force in restoring order.

“The authorities must also fully account for all those detained, ensuring they are not tortured or otherwise ill-treated, have access to lawyers and medical care, are brought promptly before an independent court and are able to challenge their detention,” said Catherine Baber, Acting Director of the Asia-Pacific Programme.

“China must allow full and unimpeded access to Tibet and other Tibetan areas to journalists and other independent observers as well as allowing independent UN investigation into the events of the last week.”