China yesterday accused “overseas secessionist groups” of trying to discredit the government after a deadly clash in a Tibetan-inhabited area saw injured locals taking refuge in a monastery.
According to the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group and local monks, police on Monday fired at Tibetans protesting against religious repression in Sichuan Province, killing at least one and injuring more than 30.
However, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday those accounts of the incident in Luhuo County were hyped, and that a mob stormed stores and a police station, prompting a clash in which one protester died and five officers were injured.
“Overseas forces of ‘Tibet independence’ have always fabricated rumors and distorted the truth to discredit the Chinese government with issues involving Tibet,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) was cited as saying by Xinhua news agency.
The unrest comes at a sensitive time in Tibetan-inhabited areas, where at least 16 people have set fire to themselves in less than a year — including four this month alone — in what rights groups say are acts of desperation.
In a sign of widespread tensions in those areas, a separate protest also rocked Aba County — where many ethnic Tibetans live — in Sichuan on Monday, prompting police to fire tear gas at a crowd of demonstrators, Free Tibet said.
A monk reached by telephone yesterday at the Drakgo Monastery in Luhuo — about 1km from the scene of the protest — said he estimated about 1,000 to 2,000 armed police were now standing guard.
“We are treating 32 injured people inside the monastery and two of them are critical. One of them has a bullet in the head,” said the monk, who would not be named.
Another monk said they were too afraid to take the wounded to an outside hospital due to the strong security presence, adding that those protesting on Monday had now gone.
“More police are coming, we just want peace,” he said.
The government and police in Luhuo refused to comment when contacted by reporters.
Accounts of the death toll vary. The monks and the Chinese government say one person died, but a man at a local hotel said he heard three people had been killed.