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China Issues 16 Arrest Warrants Over Tibet Violence


Chinese authorities say they have issued arrest warrants for 16 Tibetans allegedly involved in a riot on March 15 that killed five people.

Officials say rioters in the town of Deqing, south of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, destroyed 23 shops, burned a house and two fire engines and smashed a police car.

The official Xinhua news agency quoted a local official (procurator) Ma Yonqqing as saying the 16 have been charged with arson and endangering public security.

Elsewhere, Tibetan witnesses report the Chinese government's so-called "patriotic education" campaign in Buddhist monasteries has prompted fresh protests in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Witnesses say at least eight people, including one monk, were killed late Thursday when Chinese paramilitary police (People's Armed Police) fired on several hundred monks and villagers.

The crowd was demanding the release of monks from the Tongkor Monastery who were detained by police the previous day. The monks reportedly refused to denounce the Dalai Lama and protested when officials destroyed portraits of the exiled spiritual figure.

China's official Xinhua news agency confirmed Friday that an incident had taken place and said police were forced to fire warning shots to stop violent riots outside government offices in (Dongwu Township) Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) (Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture). Xinhua said an official was seriously injured but did not provide details of fatalities among protesters.

In separate news, Tibetan exiles reported that two Tibetan monks in nearby Sichuan province have committed suicide due to the Chinese crackdown.

Chinese authorities launched a fresh campaign to stamp out separatism in Tibetan monasteries after the monks participated in protests that began in Lhasa on March 10th and spread to Tibetan areas in nearby provinces.

Witnesses say officials force monks to prove their loyalty to the Chinese government by signing statements condemning the Dalai Lama. Beijing blames him for orchestrating unrest in Tibet in an attempt to split the region from China.

The Dalai Lama has denied involvement and repeated his willingness to negotiate with the Chinese government over full autonomy for the region as a part of China.

Chinese authorities say about 20 people died in the Lhasa violence. Tibet's government in exile says some 140 people have died in unrest in Tibet and other areas.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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