Rioters are senseless, overseas tourists in Lhasa say

Updated: 2008-03-18 07:03

LHASA - Overseas tourists who are staying in Lhasa on Monday after the unrest said the rioters were senseless, and several said that they had to cut short their travel plans.

A man from Sweden who only gave his name as Janne said the situation is safe now, but recalled that the rioters who embarked on brutal sabotage seemed senseless.

"It happened suddenly. People started to smash glass windows, burn cars and shops, and they became more aggressive," Janne said. He was eating at a Chinese restaurant on the east Beijing Road when the riot occurred.

The Swede, in his 40s, has been on a cycling trip in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region for the last four months, and was staying at the Phuncor Khasan International Youth Hotel. "When I got back to the hotel, my hostel manager told me I should not go out any more," he said.

Recalling the night of chaos, Janne said the rioters were carrying knives, iron bars and backpacks full of rock. "They was definitely well-organized."

He said he remembered seeing people chased and badly hurt by mobs. "It was senseless."

"Most of the people engaged in the arson were young men and women," he said.

He said he also saw a Canadian-looking man who tried to block punches from the mobs on one of the victims. The mobs then retreated and the man escorted the victim to the backyard.

He said he didn't see any fights between police and the rioters that day. "I saw some of the reports, but the descriptions don't correspond with what I saw," he said.

Asked about his travel plans, he said he would stay on for a couple of weeks before heading to Xinjiang, in China's northwest. "I think the city situation is stable now, now people are shopping in supermarkets. I'm relieved the riot is over," he said.

An American tourist who was at the Yak Hotel on Monday recalled that  "monks were throwing stones, and that didn't make sense at all."

The man, who declined to be named, said he was staying in the Snowland Hotel, a foreign-funded establishment not far from where the worst part of the unrest took place, but he was "later asked by local police to check out and move to another hotel which was considered safer".

"I think the situation is under control now," he said, adding that the government should continue to keep police on the streets to ensure safety and open more markets.

Doje Cezhug, the mayor of Lhasa, the regional capital, told Xinhua on Monday that conditions in the city are returning to normal.

As of Monday, traffic on the main Lhasa streets has resumed. Government bodies, businesses, schools, and major farm produce markets are operating normally.

The city gradually recovers, and several tourists who spoke to Xinhua on Monday said they had to cut short their travel plan due to the commotion.

Four Hong Kong tourists, who were at the same hotel with Janne on Monday and preferred not to be named, said they were flying out on Tuesday. A Japanese tourist who gave his name as Oguma Kenichi told Xinhua that he was also planning to leave.

Ju Jianhua, director with the region's foreign affairs office, said local civil aviation, railway and highway departments would provide convenience for the foreign travelers who want to leave the city.

The office has suspended issuing travel permits to foreigners following the violence, citing safety concerns.

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