Thursday, March 13, 2008

Monks in Tibet go on hunger strike as protests spread

By Jonathan Watts in Beijing, March 13th, 2008

Tibetan monks have gone on hunger strike to demand the release of protesters detained during the region's biggest demonstrations in almost 20 years, support groups said today.

The sit-down protest in Sera monastery, just outside Lhasa, comes amid reports that the protests against Chinese rule earlier this week have spread to a wider area than previously believed.

"We have heard from more than one source that monks in Sera are on hunger strike, demanding the release of imprisoned monks," said Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet. "We don't know the number, but it seems there are many of them."

About a dozen monks were reportedly detained on Monday, when several hundred monks from Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries took to the streets to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Beijing.

During the boldest action since 1989, some waved the banned Tibetan flag and shouted slogans calling for more freedom.

It emerged today that a similar protest took place at Lutsang monastery in Qinghai, known in Tibetan as Amdo, where hundreds of monks reportedly chanted slogans calling for their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, to return.

According to the Free Tibet campaign, 100 monks from Myera monastery in Gansu also staged a demonstration.

Since then, there have been further demonstrations. In Lhasa, thousands of police are said to have used teargas to break up rallies. Gunfire was heard, but there were no reports of casualties.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the protesters in Lhasa were "seeking to spark social turmoil". Link to Article

Coverage of protests in India:

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