Victims recount experience in riot in Lhasa

Updated: 2008-03-20 20:09

Lhasa  -- If all had gone according to plan, Mei Yan, scheduled to give birth in mid-March, would have been sleeping peacefully in her comfortable home, greeting the arrival of a new life.

Her rosy dream was shattered by a fire that destroyed her house last Friday in Southwest China's Tibet Plateau, the peak of the world. The fire wasn't a naturally occurring one; it was ignited by mobs in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet.

Lying restlessly in an ordinary room at the Rescue Station of Lhasa, Mei Yan remained fearful. "My child is to come into the world soon, but I have no idea where we will go," said Mei Yan sadly, stroking her belly.

The homeless mother-to-be, who came from neighboring Gansu Province a year ago with her husband to run a small restaurant near the mosque of the old downtown area of the plateau city, fearfully recalled how she saw home burned.

At about 2 p.m., Mei Yan was helping her parents serve customers. Suddenly, a hue and cry erupted outside. Her brother Dawuda rushed in yelling "shut the door, there's a riot."

Mei Yan rushed to slam the door. The family climbed to the second floor of the restaurant, where they lived. Outside the window, they saw scores of 20-something Tibetans hurling stones at shop doors along the street. The mob soon tried to open the iron roller door of Mei Yan's restaurant. When they failed, they threw bottles of gasoline through windows to burn the restaurant.

"I shook in my shoes and dared not utter a sound," said Mei Yan. "I heard the restaurant burning downstairs and the smoke nearly choked us." Fortunately, the police showed up shortly. "We got away in one piece. But the restaurant is gone."

Mei Yan and her family survived the violence by "a small number of rioters," as stated by Doji Cezhug, the mayor of Lhasa, are among thousands of Lhasa residents whose lives were threatened last Friday afternoon.

The mobs swarmed the commercial streets of Bargor, Linkuo, Sera and the Ngaqen Road, Second Ring Road and Beijing Middle Road in downtown Lhasa to smash, stone, loot and set fire.

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