By: Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
BEIJING, China – On the first day of the Chinese New Year security forces opened fire on Tibetan protesters yesterday killing one protester and injuring thirty-two others. This has been a contentious month between government officials and Tibetan protesters.
Four monks have already committed suicide by setting themselves on fire this month in protest of the government. With the most recent self-immolation just last week the total amount of monks killing themselves by fire has risen to sixteen over the past twelve months.
Two different accounts exist of what led to the violence. The first account, given by three Tibetan monks, explained that thousands of people marched to the local police station yesterday morning to call for religious freedom and to protest local corruption. Then around two o’clock in the afternoon police began firing at the crowd from windows of the police station.
The second account, from Xinhua (China’s official news agency), stated that dozens of people gathered outside a bus station after a man put up posters claiming a monk would set himself on fire there. Then at 2 p.m. the crowd of protestors began attacking the local police station with clubs and stones. Xinhua confirmed that one protestor was killed following the confrontation and five police officers were injured.
Free Tibet identified the killed protestor as forty-nine year old Norpa Yonten. The International Campaign for Tibet, a rights group based in Washington, said that he was the brother of a reincarnated lama.
Kate Saunders, a spokeswoman for the International Campaign for Tibet, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times, that three people were killed in the protest yesterday and forty-nine people had received treatment for injuries at monk-operated clinics.
Tibetans are afraid to go to government-run hospitals for fear that they will be questioned by authorities about the conditions surrounding their injuries.
The self-declared Tibetan parliament-in-exile in India, says the protestors demanded return of their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, reports BBC.
The Chinese government has classified Tibetans who engage in self-immolation or extreme protest techniques as terrorists and has accused the Dalai Lama of encouraging such activities.
Anticipating further protests due to New Year celebrations and the fourth anniversary of violent protests in March of 2008 the Chinese government has banned all foreigners from travelling to Tibet from February 20 to March 31.
For more information please see:
BBC – Tibetan Protester ‘Killed by Chinese Police Gunfire’ — 23 January 2012
MSN – Police Open Fire on Tibetans in China, One Dead: Locals – 23 January 2012
New York Times – Tibetans Fired Upon in Protest in China – 23 January 2012
Phayul – Tibetans Shot to Death on Chinese New Year – 23 January 2012