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Tibetan Government-in-Exile Says 19 More Shot Dead in New Protests

By VOA News
18 March 2008

Tibet's India-based government-in-exile says at least 99 people have been killed in unrest over the past week, including 19 Tibetans who were shot dead by security forces Tuesday in new protests in China's western Gansu province.

Witnesses in the Gansu county of Machu say police blocked off the streets after Buddhist monks and other Tibetans held a rally there. Witnesses tell VOA Tibetan service that they could confirm that at least 12 people were killed.

Chinese authorities have so far only confirmed the deaths of 13 people they described as "innocent civilians" who died in Friday's riots in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

The reports Tuesday of new violence came as China again blamed Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for the unrest. The Dalai Lama pledged Tuesday to step down as the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile if the situation gets out of control.

The Dalai Lama said his commitment to non-violence would require him to step down.

Earlier Tuesday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao blamed the Dalai Lama and his followers for orchestrating violent protests in Tibet. Mr. Wen said rioters caused heavy loss of life and that the government acted with extreme restraint in putting down the protests.

From Lhasa, protests against Chinese rule have spread to other communities inside Tibet and other parts of China. Late Monday night, Tibetan students at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing staged a candle-light vigil.

Details of recent events in Tibet are difficult to verify because Chinese authorities have not permitted foreign journalists to report from the region.

Chinese media Tuesday published more accounts of alleged violence carried out by Tibetan rioters Friday against Han Chinese and Chinese Muslims. Official media also carried reports criticizing Western press coverage of the events, and defended China's response to what the media called criminal activities.

China has controlled Tibet since 1951. The Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled from Tibet to India in 1959, during a failed revolt against Chinese rule. China denounces the Dalai Lama as a crusader for independence, but he says he has campaigned for nothing more than true autonomy for his homeland.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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