Baby burned to death in Lhasa riot fire

Updated: 2008-03-24 07:11

Five people in Lhasa were burned to death in a motorcycle garage by rioters on March 16, taking the civilian death toll from riots in the city to 18, the Tibet autonomous region's department of public security said on Saturday.

Police found five bodies in the garage in Dagze county of Lhasa at 12:14 am on Thursday, officials said.

 

Residents shop for vegetable yesterday in one of the areas worst hit by riots in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region. Fresh vegetables were available for the first time in 10 days in some areas. Xinhua

The garage's folding door was found to be damaged by rioters and one of the valves of two gas cylinders inside had been opened, officials said.

Three of the victims were identified as couple Liang Zhiwei, 33, and Wu Hongxia, 31, as well as their eight-month-old baby boy, from Henan province. The other two were male employees of the garage.

Previous reports wrongly identified the baby as a girl. The two employees were said to be relatives of the Liang family, but no details of their identities are available.

Police said the group died on March 16 at around 10 pm.

Unrest broke out in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, on March 14. The disturbance spread rapidly to Dagze, where rioters torched 23 shops, one residence and two fire engines.

A police car was destroyed on the night of March 15. Dagze county is 25 km away from downtown Lhasa.

The chaos in Deqing town of Dagze, where the Liangs had their business, was said to be so severe that other people in the town did not notice the disappearance of the five for days.

Residents thought the five had escaped to their relatives' home, a neighbor told Xinhua News Agency.

Qungda, a Tibetan who rented Liang Zhiwei the two-story building to carry out motorcycle repairs two years ago, was reportedly the first to discover the victims' fate.

The Tibetan, together with other members of his family, was in his wife's hometown in Qinghai province when the unrest began.

"Upon reaching home on Wednesday, I visited the shop. On the first floor, I found the interior full of burned debris, with a disgusting smell coming from the ashes," Qungda said.

"As I came to the second floor, I suddenly saw something resembling a human spine. I felt something must have gone wrong, so I called the police."

"The tenant was from a hospital in Henan and we had been on good terms," Qungda added.

"When the baby boy was born late last year, I congratulated them and presented zanba and ghee, two traditional Tibetan culinary treats. I was astonished at the fact that such a small child could not be spared either."

Ma Zhenglu, another businessman who ran a business from across the street, recalled a mob stoning shops on both sides of the street on the night of March 14.

The Dagze county government put up shelters inside its administrative compound and invited all businesspeople to move there on the same night.

"I don't think anything serious will take place" - that was the last sentence Ma remembered Liang saying.

Ma and other businesspeople in the town moved into the shelters at about 6 pm on March 15, but Liang stayed behind.

"If only Liang had taken my advice their lives would have been saved, even though our shops were set on fire," Ma said.

Pointing to the fresh traces of welding on both sides of the garage's folding door, Ma said: "They must have thought that welding the door would have prevented the mob from getting inside, but who could have expected these lawless people simply to rip apart the door and set the shop on fire."

At least 18 civilians and one police officer have been confirmed killed in the unrest in Lhasa, which also saw 382 injured.

Damages from the riots have been estimated at more than 244 million yuan ($34.59 million).

Xinhua

(China Daily 03/24/2008 page2)