|Statement on Tibet by Qiangba Puncog, Chairman of the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region|
|17 March 2008|
Opening Statement at the Press Conference on the Incident of
17 March 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am attending the annual sessions of National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference here in Beijing. As you are all very concerned about the recent incident of beating, destruction of property, looting and arson in Lhasa, I wish to take this opportunity to brief you on the incident.
On March 14th, a serious criminal act of violence involving beating, destruction of property, looting and arson took place in Lhasa. It was premeditated, organized and instigated by the Dalai clique and perpetrated by the separatist forces for "Tibetan independence" both in and outside China acting in collusion.
At around 11 o'clock that morning, some monks started to throw stones at police officers on patrol near Ramoche Temple. Later, some rioters converged on Barkhor Street, where they chanted separatist slogans and went on a beating, smashing, looting and burning spree. The violence soon spread to other parts of the city.
These lawless people launched assaults on the street-side shops, primary and middle schools, hospitals, banks, power and communication facilities and news agencies along the major streets in Lhasa, set vehicles on fire, chased and attacked passengers, and attacked department stores, telecommunications service outlets and government offices. The incident caused heavy losses of life and property to the local people and seriously undermined law and order.
In fact, some lawless people gathered together and started to create disturbances on March 10th. Defying advice from the police, they shouted "Tibetan independence" slogans, vilified police officers on duty and attacked them with sticks, stones and daggers.
According to the information that I have, during the violent incident in the past few days in Lhasa, a total of 56 vehicles were smashed or burned and 13 innocent civilians were burned or slashed to death. Dozens of policemen on patrol were injured, six of them seriously. Over 300 sites were set on fire, including shops and residences with 214 rooms. The perpetrators mainly attacked places along Barkhor Street, North Linkuo Road, Sera Road, Najin Road, Second Ring Road, Central Beijing Road, etc. Among the places attacked were No. 2 Middle School, Haicheng Primary School, Trom Si Khang Department Store, the East Beijing Road sub-branch of Tibet branch of Bank of China, mobile telecommunications service outlets, the offices of the Tibet Bureau of Xinhua News Agency and Tibet Daily, and some government buildings. I want to point out in particular that the perpetrators resorted to extremely brutal means in their killing spree. For example, they poured gasoline on one innocent civilian and burned the person to death, and after knocking out an armed policeman, they cut out a piece of flesh the size of a fist from his buttocks.
The people of all ethnic groups in Tibet have expressed strong indignation at and condemnation of the violent incident. After violence broke out, the Tibet Autonomous Region promptly organized public security officers, armed police and other personnel to put out the fires, treat the injured, strengthen protection of schools, hospitals, banks and government offices, and deal with the criminal act in accordance with the law. The measures we have taken are intended to maintain public order, uphold the sanctity of laws and protect the fundamental interests of the people, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet. Through these efforts, the situation has calmed down and stability has returned to Lhasa.
I want to point out with indignation that the Dalai clique and some westerners have called the violent crimes in Lhasa "peaceful protest" and have described our handling of the incident, which had seriously jeopardized the life and property of the local people and undermined public order in Lhasa, "suppression of peaceful protest". These people are confounding black and white. I challenge them to answer me: would any democratic government under the rule of law tolerate such violence as we have seen in Lhasa?
I'd also like to inform you that in responding to the incident, our public security officers and armed policemen showed great restraint and performed their duty in accordance with the law and in a civilized manner. None of them carried or used any lethal weapon in the process.
Finally, I wish to emphasize that the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet have the firm resolve to oppose any separatist move, safeguard national unity and maintain law and order. Any attempt to destabilize Tibet and split it from China runs counter to the will of the people and is doomed to failure. I am confident that under the leadership of the Central Government, the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region is fully capable of maintaining law and order in Tibet and protecting the fundamental interests of all ethnic groups in Tibet.
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