China arrests Tibetan monks after attack on police


Nearly 100 Tibetan monks were arrested or turned themselves in after hundreds of protesters attacked a police station in northwest China, state media reported today.


The protest appeared to be in retaliation for the disappearance of a Tibetan who escaped from police custody in Qinghai province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The demonstration was the latest sign of Tibetan anger in a tense month of tightened Chinese security in the region because of a number of sensitive anniversaries.

Several hundred people — including nearly 100 monks from the La'gyab Monastery — attacked the police station of La'gyab, a township in the Tibetan prefecture of Golog, assaulting policemen and government staff on Saturday, Xinhua said.

The assault caused some slight injuries, Xinhua said, without elaborating.

A man who answered the phone at Qinghai's public security department said he had not heard about the attack or the arrests. Phone calls to other police departments and government offices in the area rang unanswered.

Six people were arrested for alleged involvement in the riot while another 89 people surrendered to police. All but two were monks, Xinhua said. Police were searching for other monks who took part in the attack but fled, Xinhua cited local official Ju Kezhong, as saying.

Order has been restored in the township, it said.

The violence began after a man accused of supporting Tibetan independence escaped from police custody Saturday and went missing, Xinhua said.

Xinhua cited authorities as saying the man fled the La'gyab police station after asking to go to the washroom, prompting a manhunt. It cited a witness as saying he was seen swimming in the Yellow River.

A former resident of the area who now lives in Dharmsala, India, said the protesters were angry because they believed the man, a 28-year-old monk named Tashi Sangpo, jumped in the river to commit suicide after fleeing.

"When Tashi was being interrogated by the officials, he asked their permission to go to the toilet. He then went out and jumped into the Yellow River," the source said on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisals against his family still living in China. "The dead body is yet to be found."

The exile said 500 monks from the monastery protested outside the local administration office and the group swelled to about 2,000 as others from the village joined.

He said Tashi Sangpo was being investigated by police because he unfurled a Tibetan flag on the roof of the monastery on March 10, the anniversary of the start of the 1959 abortive Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule, and distributed pamphlets on the street urging unified protest against Chinese rule.

It was difficult to independently verify the account as government departments could not be reached Sunday.

Dharmsala is the seat of the Dalai Lama's self-proclaimed government-in-exile and the destination of many Tibetans who flee China.

Security in Tibetan areas has been tightened in recent weeks as Beijing tried to head off trouble ahead of sensitive anniversaries this month. March 14 marked the one-year anniversary of anti-government riots in Lhasa, Tibet's regional capital, while March 17 marked 50 years since the Dalai Lama escaped into exile in India after Chinese troops crushed a Tibetan revolt.

China claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries and that Beijing's tight control is draining them of their culture and identity.