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A Most Brutal Day In Their Life
27 March 2008 | By Ren Ke | From China Features


Peng Zhongyang has no option but to live in the conference room of the Urban Construction Bureau. The 37-year-old lost his home and brother-in-law to the riot that broke out on March 14 in Lhasa --- which means the "place of the Gods".

The father of two kids is still haunted by the violence that broke out on March 14 in Lhasa. Around 3:30 p.m that Friday, after he picked up his little boy and girl from school, he was caught up in the chaos.

"We encounter more than ten mobs throwing stones on the street, beating and smashing a traffic post nearby. Among them was a teenaged Tibetan girl in school uniform, " he recalled.

Pen, the owner of two clothing stores, tried to run for his life, with his kids. But the mob had no intention to spare them, chasing them all the way to his store on Duosenge Road.

"Roughly 30 of the rioters tired to break in, " he said.

At the same time, a Tibetan girl was shouting to him for help. Peng took her into the store, where eight people sought sanctuary, and they were trying to close the rolling door, but rioter's sticks flew towards them.

Eventually, they put a spring bed against the door. The mobs began to chop the rolling door with their Tibetan swords. "After cutting out the door, they threw in gas-filled mineral waters bottles, and set the place on fire," Peng said.

At 5:30 p.m., when the firemen and police arrived, the rioters ran away to different directions, but the fire spread to Peng's store next door, in which his brother-in-law Zuo Rencun was hiding. Peng ventured into the store only to find his dead body there.

Zuo was among the 13 civilians burned or stabbed to death on the black Friday, with many others injured.

The riot had also caused Peng about half a million RMB worth of loss. That is "two to three years of my income, " he said.

Anger and fear is still hanging over Lhasa ten days after the riot took place. "They (rioters) hit everyone in their way, and were very inhumane," said Qoizhoin in a hospital. The 63-year-old Tibetan granny was injured on the way home.

The "3.14 incident" originated from the Ramoche Monastery, where a group of monks stones policemen around 11 a.m. Later, the mobs went to Barkhor bazaar, the most bustling tourist spot of Lhasa, where they smashed and burned down houses and shops in the area. The chaotic situation then extended to other parts of the city.

At that very day, the rioter set fires at some 300 locations and smashed and burned 56 vehicles, according to the Tibetan Autonomous Region government.

"They were extremely brutal", Puncog recalled. "In one incident, they poured gasoline onto an innocent person, and burned him to death. In another, they knocked over a police officer, and then knifed a fist-size piece of flesh out of the officer's buttocks."

The brutalities are condemned by the living Buddha the 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu Panchan.

"The violence ran counter to Buddhism tenets," Panchan said.

"The rioters' actions not only harmed the interests of the nation and the people, but also violated the aim of Buddhism."

Indeed, killing is strictly forbidden in Buddhist doctrines. But what Janne C Fredrik, a Swedish tourist, saw is the otherwise. "The rioters were carrying knives, iron bars and backpacks full of rock. They were definitely well-organized," recalled Janne, who was cycling around Tibet in the last two months.

"People were chased and badly hurt by mobs. It was senseless," he said, adding "Most people engaged in arson were young men and women."

The violence has severely damaged the personal and property safety of Tibetan people. "But, it will not undermine the harmony between Tibetans and Hans cultivated in thousands of years' history," said Tibetologist Kelsang Yeshe, president of Tibetan Ancient Book Publishing House.

Archaeological finds suggest that Han and Tibetan people share the same origins. Excavated stone knives of late Paleolithic age and grains in Neolithic age show that ancient Tibet had interactions with the Yellow River basin.

Ever since the Tang Dynasty's Princess Wencheng came to Tibet some 1,300 years ago as queen of Songtsen Gampo, King of Tubo, Lhasa has seen comprehensive exchanges between Han and Tibetan ethnic groups in culture and trade.

In order to preserve Tibetan culture, the central government has earmarked a huge amount of money for the repair and the maintenance of monasteries since 1959 when the peaceful liberalization of Tibet put an end on its theocracy and serfdom system, noticed Tubdian Targyai, a living Buddha at the Gandan Monastery.

"The monasteries preservations are a best protection of Tibetan culture."

At the same time, the central government pours billions of RMB into Tibet to help its economic and social development. In 2006, Tibet's GDP hit 29 billion yuan (4 billion U.S. dollars), a more than 45 times that of 1959.

"Religion advocates care and mercy, but the reckless rioters attacked hospitals and child-entertainment centers," said Cering Doje, deputy director of the religion research institute of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences.

"They seemed to have lost basic humanity, and there was no mercy at all."

Now that the situation in Lhasa calmed down since March 16. Civil servants and local residents took to the streets on Sunday afternoon to clean up the aftermath from the riot in the worst hit areas.

"They stirred up a decent city and turned it into chaos. They were truly horrible," said Yangjain, a local Tibetan.

The main streets in the downtown area, which were scattered with rubbish and rocks, were crowed with traffic again.

As for the clothing storeowner Peng Zhongyang, he said the local elementary school has given his kids new schoolbags and schoolbooks for free after knowing their sufferings in the riot.

"I really appreciate the deep concern of local people," he said.

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