Protesters ‘surrender in Tibet’

More than 100 people have turned themselves in to police following anti-China riots in Tibet’s main city, Lhasa, Chinese state media has said. People surrendered to secure leniency in response to a deadline set by the authorities, Xinhua news agency said.

China says it will harshly punish protesters who do not surrender. Police in Lhasa have been searching houses and making arrests, activists say.

China has blamed the Dalai Lama for the protests – a claim he roundly rejects.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has called for an end to violence, saying Tibetans have to live with the Chinese whether they like it or not.

‘Life and death struggle’

Tibet’s Communist Party secretary Zhang Qingli has warned of a “long-term” struggle against the Tibetan exile movement.

“We are in the midst of a fierce struggle involving blood and fire, a life and death struggle with the Dalai Clique,” he told a teleconference of regional leaders on Wednesday.

We must not develop anti-Chinese feelings. Whether we like it or not we have to live side-by-side
The Dalai Lama

“Leaders of the whole country must deeply understand the arduousness, complexity and long-term nature of the struggle,” he said in remarks carried online by the China Tibet News.

The protests began on 10 March, on the anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, and gradually escalated.

China says 13 people were killed by rioters in Lhasa. Tibetan exiles say at least 99 protesters have died in clashes – in Lhasa and beyond – with authorities.

‘Widespread arrests’

According to the Tibet regional government, 105 people involved in the protests had handed themselves over to police by 2300 (1500GMT) on Tuesday, Xinhua reported.

All had been involved in “beating, smashing, looting and arson”, the agency quoted Baema Chilain, vice-chairman of the regional government, as saying.

Free Tibet protester in Delhi, India, 18 March
China says Tibet was always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th century
1950: China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India

Foreign media have not been allowed into Lhasa and the flow of information out is tightly controlled, but rights groups say they have heard reports of widespread arrests.

“In Lhasa we (have been told about) hundreds of arrests,” Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet told the French news agency AFP.

In a statement, US-based group Human Rights Watch urged China to allow independent monitors access to detainees.

Chinese authorities have insisted no lethal force was used to quell the protests, which have since spread to regions that border Tibet.

But rights groups have accused Chinese security forces of a violent crackdown.

Call for inquiry

On Tuesday Tibetan activists released images they say support their claim of heavy casualties and Chinese brutality.

They say the pictures depict protesters killed by Chinese security forces at Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province on Sunday – but the BBC is unable to verify these claims.

A representative of the Chinese embassy in London, Yu Jing, said it was “hard to judge from the pictures” but that if they were accurate, there would be an explanation.

She said some reports suggested the local police station and police officers had been attacked, and that Chinese officials were looking into the claims.

Images from Sichuan province sent by Tibetan activists alleging Chinese troops killed protesters
Tibetan activists say Chinese troops shot indiscriminately(Warning: Graphic content)

The Tibetan exile government said it had also heard reports of 19 deaths in neighbouring Gansu province.

On Tuesday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding the violence.

The Dalai Lama – who in 1989 won a Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to non-violent protest – has rejected Chinese claims of involvement and called for calm.

“Violence is against human nature,” the Dalai Lama said. “We must not develop anti-Chinese feelings. Whether we like it or not we have to live side-by-side.”

He has called for an international inquiry into why the riots took place.

China says Tibet has always been part of its territory but Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before the 20th Century and many Tibetans remain loyal to the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959.