Civil unrest continues to flare across Tibet as Beijing mobilised more troops and despatched them towards the Himalayas to quell the disturbances.
Journalists who have succeeded in slipping past police cordons have described columns of trucks — sometimes several kilometres long — converging on the one time autonomous mountain kingdom, now considered by Beijing as a region of northern China.
In the capital, Lhasa —where last Friday groups of Tibetans had been attacking ethnic Han Chinese with knives and clubs — Chinese paramilitary police and soldiers were checking the papers of anyone moving around the city.
One journalist in western China said that he counted more than 400 military vehicles moving in convoys of up to 80, which all appeared to be heading for Tibet. It has been estimated that China is sending a minimum of 12,000 reinforcements into the restive Himalayan region.
In Qinghai province, to the north of Tibet and the birthplace of the exiled Dalai Lama, it has been reported that the Chinese paramilitary moved quickly into Jianzha county after pupils at the Tibetan Nationalities Middle School pulled down the Chinese flag fluttering over the school and replaced it with the Tibetan snow lion banner.
The children yelled “Long Live the Dalai Lama”, while their teachers tried to restore order, witnesses said.
Students in a nearby county rushed into the streets Wednesday, hurling bricks and rocks at shop windows along the street. Some 40 military trucks were sent in and the children quickly dispersed.
Meanwhile its been reported that a train carrying dozens of military vehicles, including trucks and four-wheel drives, has been seen on a railway line heading from western China into Tibet.
The words Chinese People’s Armed Police Rapid Reaction Force were written on the side of one of the vehicles. Troop movements seemed to be especially large in Sichuan province, bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Chinese soldiers and paramilitary were seen in Tibet’s capitol, Lhasa, stopping people at street junctions to check papers in an effort to find those involved in last Friday’s deadly riots. China says 16 people were killed. The Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile puts the number at 99.
On Wednesday Beijing finally revealed that more anti-Chinese riots had erupted in Sichuan and Gansu provinces. The admission highlights the escalating unrest and the bitterness now dividing the Tibetans and ethnic Han Chinese.
More than 170 people involved in the riots have now surrendered to police in Lhasa alone and 24 have been arrested formally. China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that: “Most of the people who surrendered themselves were ordinary members of the public who did not understand the true situation. Some were incited by a small number of lawbreakers, and some were forced by them to take part.”
The exiled Dalai Lama said Thursday that he was ready to travel to China to talk to the Chinese President once the violent protests in Tibet died down. “I [am] always ready to meet our Chinese leaders, particularly Hu Jintao.”
Beijing has accussed the exiled Tibetan leader of masterminding the protests from his home in northern India, where he has lived since he fled during a failed uprising in 1959.