China says 13 killed in Friday riots; Tibet remains calm, but tense
Beijing (PTI): Under intense global scrutiny over Lhasa riots, China on Monday said it showed "maximum restraint" but vowed to punish those who committed "serious crimes" as the violence-battered Tibetan capital remained calm but tense three days after the killing of 13 people in the unrest.
"We showed maximum restraint. We did not use lethal weapons. No guns were used. We used only tear gas and water canons," Tibet Autonomous Regional Government Chairman Qiangba Puncog told a hurriedly called press conference, as he dismissed charge of "repression" of peaceful protests by Tibetans.
Qiangba said the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) was also not involved to quell the protests until yesterday, since when they had been cleaning up the roads and helping in maintaining public order.
"The central government had made it clear to the security personnel to perform their duties in a civilised manner and in accordance with the law," he said, fending off the allegation of repression from some western countries and human rights groups.
He said 13 innocent civilians were either hacked or burnt to death, which pushes up the toll from 10 in Friday's bloodletting when the pro-Tibet independence protests led by Buddhist monks took a violent turn in the fiercest protest in two decades.
Qiangba dismissed as "baseless" reports that there were about "35 to 70 to 80 deaths" in the unrest.
He said it was "baffling" that some western countries and the 'Dalai clique', groups associated with the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, were saying that peaceful protests were being suppressed. "Will any democratic country tolerate such violent behaviour?"
As the deadline set for surrender of the rioters ends on Monday, Qiangba said the government would show leniency towards them and more so towards those who provided information on the disturbances who would be educated. "But we will deal harshly with those who have committed serious crimes."
Qiangba said dozens of policemen and 61 armed policemen were injured, six seriously, and the rioters set fire to more than 300 places, including residential houses and 214 shops and smashed and burnt 56 vehicles in the violence which was "premeditated, incited and organised" by the Dalai clique.
In two "extremely brutal" cases, the marauding mobs poured gasoline on a man and burnt him and in another a police officer was beaten until he slipped into coma after which the rioters "cut out a piece of flesh as big as fist from his buttock," he said.
The banks, schools, telecommunication services and offices of the state-run Xinhua news agency and Tibet Daily were also attacked, he said.
"The violence was meticulously planned and organised by these people in collusion with inside and outside forces," he said.
He said the perpetrators of serious crimes would be brought to justice, adding "no country would allow such persons to escape the arm of the law." He said three persons jumped off a building while resisting the arrest by police.
Qiangba said the regional government was not caught by surprise by the disturbances and it had handled the situation "effectively and efficiently."
He said the situation in Lhasa was calm now.
China has, meanwhile, prohibited entry of foreigners to Tibet and asked the tourists to leave.
The regional government of Tibet has suspended handling the application of foreigners to travel to Tibet for "safety concerns," a local official said, as the riot-scarred mountain city remained calm but tense since Friday's widespread violence.
More than 20 foreign tourists had left Tibet safely with the help of the local government, Ju Jianhua, Director with the region's foreign affairs office, was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
The local civil aviation, railway and highway departments would facilitate foreign travellers who want to leave, the official said.
Lhasa police had said earlier that they rescued more than 580 people, including three Japanese tourists, during the rioting.
Chinese security forces were keeping a hawk-eyed vigil in Lhasa, as the local government launched a "people's war" to crush the unrest.
No fresh bloodletting was reported in Lhasa where violence erupted in full fury on Friday during the protests launched as part of the stir to mark the 49th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against the 57-year Chinese rule.