Tibetans also among riot victims

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-03-28 06:43

LHASA - A top Tibet official Thursday corrected a misconception that the recent riots in Lhasa targeted only Han residents, saying the notion is meant to undermine ethnic unity.

Tibetans also fell victim to the March 14 riots, said Baema Chilain, vice-chairman of the Tibet autonomous region.

Of the 18 innocent people killed, three were Tibetans; and stores owned by Tibetans and Hui people were also burnt down or looted around the city's business center, he said.

While Tibetans make up more than 90 percent of the population in the region, Baema Chilain stressed the government is obliged to protect the rights of people of about 20 other ethnic groups.

He made the remarks while addressing a media group, including overseas journalists, on a three-day trip to Lhasa to interview victims, police officers and criminal suspects.

Some rioters, mostly Tibetans and a few Han people, said they were forced to join the looting and arson. Others said they had no idea what was going on when they were summoned by mobs.

"I was threatened and forced by some strangers to take part in the riots. I feel very regretful over that I want to say sorry to the victims," said 25-year-old Daindar, who turned himself in.

According to Baema Chilain, the local police have detained 414 criminal suspects for taking part in the riots. Among them are Tibetans, both monks and laymen, as well as Han people, he said.

Baema Chilain also said that 289 people who took part in the riots had turned themselves in so far, and 111 had been released.

Meanwhile, six of the 53 most wanted leaders of the riots have also surrendered to the police; and four more have been arrested.

With the situation in Lhasa back to normal, the local authorities are offering tax exemptions or interest-free loans to businessmen whose stores were destroyed in the riots, China Daily has learnt.

Baema Chilain also promised that tourists from both home and abroad might soon be able to come here. "Tibet is, and will, remain open to the outside world. The recent riots will not hinder our development and stability."

The mayor of Lhasa said yesterday that monks who participated in the recent riots still perform their religious duties and have full access to food, water and power supply.

Doje Cezhug made the remarks in response to some overseas reports that daily supplies for those monks had been cut off.

Major temples including Jokhang Temples, Sera Temple and Zebang Temple "enjoy stable water, food and power supply. And the religious activities there are normal as usual," he said.

The media group yesterday visited a Tibetan clinic and a school which were destroyed, and a clothing store where five sales assistants were burnt to death by rioters.

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