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Tibet protests: Independent UN investigation needed

"The Chinese authorities should allow an independent UN investigation into the events of the last week in Tibet, particularly in the light of the sealing off of the region in recent days and the long-term restrictions on human rights monitoring there," said Amnesty International today. "The situation also demands attention by the Human Rights Council at its current session."

The organization calls on the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint in responding to continuing protests, to fully account for all detainees in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas during the crackdown on protests over the last week, and to release those detained for peacefully expressing their views and exercising their freedom of expression, association and assembly.

"The Chinese authorities also need to address the underlying grievances of the Tibetan people and the long-term policies that have generated such resentment," said Catherine Baber, Director of the Asia-Pacific Programme at Amnesty International. Long-term grievances surfacing this week include perceived exclusion from the benefits of economic development, restrictions on religious practice and the weakening of Tibetan culture and ethnic identity through government policies.

Protests started last Monday when around 400 monks began a march from Drepung Monastery heading into central Lhasa, demanding the easing of a government-imposed campaign which forces monks to write denunciations of the Dalai Lama and subjects them to government political propaganda. Over 50 of them were arrested on the way to the city. Subsequent protests began in other monasteries in support of those detained, leading to more general unrest throughout Lhasa and in other parts of Tibet in which lay people joined in. Protests among Tibetans in the neighbouring provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan have also been reported.

Police and military forces were reported to have fired teargas into crowds, beaten protestors and fired live ammunition in an attempt to disperse them. On Friday protests in Lhasa turned violent, with some protestors setting fire to a police car, and specifically targeting and setting fire to Chinese-owned businesses. Official Chinese sources reported ten dead, largely businesspeople in Lhasa. There are unconfirmed reports of many more casualties.

A curfew is reported to be in place throughout the whole city, and all shops are closed. Entry into the city has been blocked off through check-points around the whole city, armoured vehicles and contingents from the People’s Armed Police are present throughout Lhasa. Reports suggest that scattered protests continued in parts of the city today.

Police and military forces have surrounded three major monasteries in the Lhasa area, confining monks inside and beating those who have attempted to leave. Monks from Sera monastery are reported to have started a hunger strike demanding the withdrawal of military forces from their monastery.

Peaceful protests by Tibetans have also occurred this week in India and Nepal. In India protestors intending to march to the Chinese border were subjected to a restraining order and detained. In Nepal, protests in Kathmandu were violently dispersed and demonstrators who were briefly detained reported being beaten and otherwise ill-treated.

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