Police shot dead an alleged Tibetan independence “insurgent” in northwestern China, state press said yesterday, the first official admission that authorities killed anyone during recent unrest.
A policeman was also killed in the gun battle on Monday in a Tibetan area of Qinghai Province, Xinhua news agency reported.
Tibet’s government-in-exile has said more than 200 people had been killed in a huge Chinese military and police crackdown on protests against Beijing’s rule of the Himalayan region that began on March 10.
Until yesterday’s report, Chinese authorities had insisted they had killed no-one in the crackdown and blamed Tibetan “rioters” for the deaths of 20 people.
China has, however, sealed off Tibet and other hotbed areas in the west of the country that have Tibetan populations to stop foreign reporters and other independent observers from witnessing the crackdown.
Monday’s incident occurred after police went in pursuit of the leader of a handful of “insurgents seeking Tibetan independence,” Xinhua reported, citing the Qinghai public security department.
The group had tried to incite Tibetan herders in Dari county to rally on March 21, a week after major protests erupted in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, Xinhua said.
“After a month-long investigation, the police moved on Monday to arrest the suspected leader. The suspect resisted arrest and gunfire broke out,” Xinhua reported, citing the department. “The officer was killed in the gun battle, and other officers returned fire, killing the suspect.”
Xinhua identified the police officer as Lama Cedain, but did not release the name of the alleged “insurgent” who was killed. Local and provincial police refused to comment when contacted by reporters yesterday.
In a later report, Xinhua said 1,000 people attended the policeman’s funeral, where his body was covered with the Chinese Communist Party flag.