(AFP) – Mar 19, 2008
BEIJING (AFP) — China said Wednesday it was engaged in a "life or death struggle" over Tibet as dramatic footage emerged of Tibetan protesters rampaging on horseback and hoisting their national flag.
With China deploying a massive security force to quash the uprising and sealing off the hotbed areas from foreign media, activists and a rights group warned hundreds of Tibetans believed arrested may be at risk of torture.
Activist groups also released photos on Tuesday of eight dead Tibetans they said had been killed by Chinese forces at a protest in Sichuan province, saying it was proof of the brutal methods being used to quell the unrest.
But amid the fierce international scrutiny and its image being tarnished ahead of the Beijing Olympics, China showed no signs of backing down in its controversial campaign to end the uprising against its 57-year rule of Tibet.
"We are currently in an intensely bloody and fiery struggle with the Dalai Lama clique, a life or death struggle with the enemy," Tibet's Communist Party leader Zhang Qingli said in an editorial in the Tibet Daily on Wednesday.
"As long as we... remain of one heart, turn the masses into a walled city and work together to attack the enemy, then we can safeguard social stability and achieve a full victory in this intense battle against separatism."
The protests began in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa last week and escalated into deadly incidents on Friday.
While blanket security of the city appeared to have stymied any further major protests there, Tibetans living in neighbouring and nearby provinces have continued to defy authorities and protest for independence of their homeland.
China has tried to block foreign reporters from travelling into these regions, but Canadian TV said it was able to witness one of those protests on Tuesday in Gansu province, and showed dramatic footage of the unrest.
In the broadcast, more than 1,000 ethnic Tibetans, some of them on horseback, charged into a remote town, attacking a government building, pulling down the Chinese flag at a school and hoisting the Tibetan one.
Inside the town the crowd of Tibetans was repelled by about 100 heavily armed soldiers using tear gas, CTV said.
CTV's story was posted on YouTube on Wednesday and could be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxm2obArsBs.
China has insisted it has used no deadly force to quell the unrest, reporting that the only people who have died so far were 13 "innocent civilians" killed by rioters in Lhasa on Friday.
However Tibet's parliament-in-exile said on Monday that "hundreds" of people had been killed in the Chinese crackdown.
Activists also pointed to photos said to be of dead Tibetans from a protest on Sunday in Ngawa, in southwest China's Sichuan province, as proof that Chinese forces were using lethal force.
The photos purportedly showed different men and at least one woman who appeared to be dead, with a bullet wound over the heart of one man. The body of another man is lying naked on a plastic sheet saturated in blood.
The veracity of the photos could not be independently verified by AFP.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, China's official Xinhua news agency said 105 Tibetan "rioters" in Lhasa had surrendered by late Tuesday night, following a midnight Monday deadline to turn themselves in.
But exiled groups and rights activists said at least hundreds of Tibetans had been detained and were at risk of torture amid a sweep by Chinese security forces throughout Tibet and other hotspot areas.
"It seems like there are many hundreds of arrests at least, possibly thousands, across the country," Lhadon Tethong, director of Students for a Free Tibet, told AFP, as other groups gave similar tallies.
Human Rights Watch warned those in custody were at great risk of being tortured.
"Given the long and well-documented history of torture of political activists by China's security forces there is every reason to fear for the safety of those recently detained," said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's Asia director.
A male official with the public security bureau in Lhasa would not comment on the surrenders or reported arrests on Wednesday and told AFP not to call back.
The protests began in Lhasa last week to mark the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
Chinese authorities have repeatedly accused Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland after the 1959 uprising, of masterminding the latest unrest.
But the Nobel Peace laureate, 72, has repeatedly insisted he does not want independence, but an end to what he has said is widespread repression in his homeland.
China's officially annexed Tibet in 1951, a year after sending troops in to "liberate" the region.
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