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Authorities condemn rioters in Tibetan-populated counties

2012-02-01 15:19 Global Times     Web Editor: Xu Aqing comment

Sichuan provincial authorities Tuesday condemned the riots in two of its Tibetan-populated counties early last week, in which they said local police were forced to open fire, killing two rioters and wounding several others.

The riots were serious crimes plotted by Tibetan separatist forces in and outside of China, in a bid to break the peace during the Lunar New Year as well as create conflicts between ethnic cultures and histories, according to local authorities.

The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China's Sichuan Committee published an official statement for the first time concerning the riots a week ago.

Both the incidents were plotted copycats of the March 14 riots in Lhasa in 2008, with a deliberate plan to incite hatred among the people, the statement asserts.

Security was stepped up after the riots in and around the counties. Armed police officers were checking inbound vehicles at the checkpoints along major routes leading to the mountainous counties yesterday, and police vehicles were present at major streets and squares in Kangding county, where the government of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is located.

On the afternoon of January 23, the day of Spring Festival, a group of rioters, comprised of Tibetan separatists, including some monks, chanted "Tibet independence" slogans and smashed government office buildings with stones, sticks and knives in Ganzi's Luhuo county.

The violence got worse when they attacked the police station, smashing windows and destroying police and fire vehicles. They attacked the armed police guarding the police station and fought with officers to take their guns. Ten policemen and firefighters were injured during the melee.

"It was only after the police failed to stop the rioters with repeated warnings and admonitions that they cracked down on the rioting with force, for fear of aggravation and to ensure the officers' safety and maintain the country's legal authority," reads the statement.

The next day, on January 24, more violent riots struck Seda, another county in Ganzi. Rioters threw Molotov cocktails and stones, and opened fire, injuring 14 police officers, before they were dispersed.

The official document does not mention deaths from the riots or the number of rioters. Hu Weidong, an office director with the CPC Sichuan committee's publicity department, told the Global Times that one rioter was killed in each of the counties, and 13 others were detained in Seda. Some injured rioters were suspected to be hiding in local monasteries.

Official figures show the relentless destruction of public and private property resulted in direct financial losses of at least 3.77 million yuan ($598,000).

Rioters involved in both attacks also smashed residential houses that had Spring Festival decorations and lanterns, in an apparent attempt to intimidate people observing Han culture.

The UK-based Guardian earlier quoted Free Tibet as saying that Tibetan protesters had gathered in Luhuo after some people were arrested for spreading leaflets urging people not to celebrate the Lunar New Year as several Tibetans had set themselves on fire last year.

More than 78 percent of the 1.09 million population in Ganzi are of Tibetan ethnicity.

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