Chaos in Tibet capital as protests spread - Asia - World - The Independent

Chaos in Tibet capital as protests spread

Protesters in Tibet's capital Lhasa burnt shops and vehicles and yelled for independence today as the region was hit by its biggest protests for nearly two decades, testing China's grip months before the Olympics.



Peaceful street marches by Tibetan Buddhist monks over previous days gave way to bigger scenes of violence and resentment in the remote, mountainous region.



The US Embassy said it had received reports of gunfire in Lhasa and advised its citizens to stay indoors.



"Now it's very chaotic outside," an ethnic Tibetan resident said by telephone.



"People have been burning cars and motorbikes and buses. There is smoke everywhere and they have been throwing rocks and breaking windows. We're scared."



Another ethnic Tibetan resident said there were "protests everywhere".



"It's no longer just the monks. Now they have been joined by lots of residents," the man said.



The eruption of anger comes despite China's repeated claims the Tibetan people are grateful for improved lives, and it threatens to stain preparations for the Beijing Olympics.



"We feel that this very heavy-handed response is not commensurate with the very moderate approach of the demonstrators peacefully expressing their aspirations," said Thupten Samphel, a spokesman in Dharamsala in India for the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government-in-exile.



"We appeal to the international community to persuade the Chinese authorities to deal with these demonstrations moderately. We believe to address their grievances is much more important than to physically suppress them."



Chinese rule in remote, Buddhist Tibet has become a focus for critics in the run-up to the August Games, with global marches this week to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Communist rule spilling into Tibet itself.



Those marches apparently emboldened Buddhist monks to take to Lhasa's streets, defying a heavy police presence and reports of lockdowns on several monasteries, sources with knowledge of the region said.



Today, 300 to 400 residents and monks demonstrated in Lhasa, a source cited a witness as saying, capping the protests that echoed the anti-government demonstrations that rocked neighbour Burma last year.



"Some are angry and some are scared. The security forces are checking houses to see if any monks are hiding," said the source, who is in touch with Tibetan residents.



More than 10 monks had been arrested and tanks were patrolling the square near the Potala Palace, the source said, referring to one of the architectural wonders of the world once the winter residence of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.



Witnesses said a number of shops were set on fire, and a report from China's Xinhua news agency said the Tromsikhang Market in central Lhasa was also in flames.





Residents spoke of general chaos around the city, and one Tibetan man said Tibetans and minority Hui Muslim traders from other parts were fighting each other with rocks and knives.



A Han Chinese resident said the protests were being directed at the city's Chinese population.



"The Han Chinese are really scared," the resident said. "We have been told not to go outside."



"It is very chaotic ... There is lots of smoke and police around," said another Han Chinese man. An editor at the Lhasa Evening News said staff were staying inside.



Two residents reached by telephone referred to martial law.



But that could not be confirmed and China's State Council Information Office declined to comment, referring only to remarks made yesterday by a Foreign Ministry spokesman who said the protesters were "seeking to spark social turmoil".



The demonstrations in Lhasa earlier also spilled into at least one other ethnic Tibetan area of China.



Hundreds of monks from the Labrang monastery in the northwestern province of Gansu led a march through the town of Xiahe, the Free Tibet Campaign said, citing sources in Dharamsala, home to Tibet's government-in-exile.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week