From New York Times – As many as 100 Tibetans were arrested in northwest China on Thursday after they demonstrated against the earlier detention of monks from a nearby monastery, witnesses and a Tibetan human rights group said Friday.
Local residents reached by telephone on Friday said that the police beat and arrested people at an open-air market in Tongren, a town in Qinghai, a western province bordering Tibet, after they refused orders to leave.
The residents said the town was the scene of several disturbances in recent months, including an unauthorized gathering in February involving 300 monks who were dispersed by tear gas as they tried to make their way to a government building.
A police official in Tongren confirmed by telephone that there had been detentions after “unrest,” but said that half of those detained had been released.
The disturbances on Thursday were the latest sign that the continuing turmoil in Tibetan regions of China has yet to be quelled. Since the riots on March 14 in Lhasa, 2,200 people in areas with heavily Tibetan populations, most of them in Qinghai and Gansu Provinces, have been taken into custody, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The authorities said most of those who had been arrested or had surrendered to the police had been released.
At a news conference Friday in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Dalai Lama said that he had taken part in private meetings aimed at quelling the violence, but that they had not borne fruit.
“Soon after the crisis happened, there was some contact, some private channels,” he said, adding, “No signs are positive.” Tibetan exile groups say that 140 people, most of them protesters, have died in the violence in the Tibetan regions; Chinese officials put the number at 19 and say nearly all were victims of the rioting.
Tashi Choephel, a researcher at the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in India, who said he had spoken to three witnesses in Tongren, said many of those arrested Thursday were monks from the Rong Gonchen Monastery. He said the monks had been at the center of previous clashes with the authorities.
“It’s very, very tense,” Mr. Tashi Choephel said, adding that the police were preventing anyone from entering or leaving the monastery.
The trouble on Thursday began around 11 a.m., he said, when 22 monks staged a quiet protest to demand the release of three monks who had been detained a week earlier for their role in a March 16 demonstration.
A local resident, reached by telephone, said many people were upset by the detentions. “We wanted them to come back home, but the government said no,” said the resident, who refused to give his name, citing fear of punishment by the authorities.
Mr. Tashi Choephel said that armed police officers quickly arrested the monks and that word then spread to the monastery, prompting 80 monks to descend on the marketplace. The gathering turned boisterous, he said, drawing passers-by and provoking a heated confrontation with the police.
The police beat many of those at the scene, Mr. Tashi Choephel said. They were put onto four waiting trucks and taken to the county office of the Public Security Bureau.
The Dalai Lama arrived in Michigan after meeting with Chinese and Tibetan students in Canada, and said that such meetings could be a way to promote understanding between the sides.
“Now that time has come that we should start a Sino-Tibetan friendship group, and meet regularly,” he said.
The Dalai Lama repeated his support for the Beijing Olympics and said that he would not ask that demonstrations stop, although he did not condone violent protests.
He also said he did not mind criticism of him by Tibetan leaders. “I welcome it,” he said.