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China detains dozens after riot

March 22, 2009

From CNN

Authorities detained 95 people — all but two of them monks — after a crowd of more than 100 people attacked a police station in western China, state media said Sunday.

The crowd attacked police officers and government staff in the Qinghai province Saturday after a man who was in custody for advocating Tibetan independence went missing, the Xinhua news agency said.

Chinese authorities said the man, Zhaxi Sangwu, escaped after asking to use the bathroom. They said they did not know what happened to him afterward.

But the official Web site of the Central Tibetan Administration, Tibet.net, said the man evaded arrest by jumping into a river and committing suicide. The site identified the man as Tashi Sangpo, which is pronounced similarly to the Chinese name Zhaxi Sangwu.

The site said police arrested the man after allegedly finding a Tibetan national flag and other documents in his room.

Angered by his death, protesters attacked the station carrying Tibetan flags and banners, and shouting slogans calling for the region’s independence.

Earlier this month, Tibetans marked the 50th anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Beijing’s rule that sent their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile.

Tibetan Buddhists say they resent the slow erosion of their culture amid an influx of Han Chinese, the largest ethnic group in China. That resentment spilled over in March 2008, when Buddhist monks initiated peaceful anti-Chinese protests in the regional capital, Lhasa, on the 49th anniversary of the uprising.

The protests soon turned violent, with demonstrators burning vehicles and shops. Some protesters advocated independence from China, while others demonstrated against the growing influence of the Han Chinese in the area and other regions of China with ethnic Tibetan populations.

The subsequent crackdown left 18 civilians and one police officer dead, according to the Chinese government. Tibet’s self-proclaimed government-in-exile put the death toll from the protests at 140.
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China accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting the discord in his homeland — a charge he denies.

The Dalai Lama has said he does not advocate violence or a separate and independent Tibet. He has said he wants a genuine autonomy that preserves the cultural heritage of the region.

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