30 March 2008

Foreign diplomats visit Lhasa after March 14 riot

The diplomats came from Beijing-based embassies and diplomatic missions of Brazil, Japan, Germany, Canada, European Union, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Singapore, Tanzania, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Russia and the United States.

Upon arrival on Friday afternoon, the delegation went to the burnt Yishion Clothes Store on the Beijing Middle Road in downtown Lhasa where five young girls were burnt to death in the riot.

The shop boss and a girl who survived the fire answered questions from the diplomats. The survived girl told in detail what had happened in the afternoon of March 14, as foreign diplomats required.

The delegation's buses passed through the Beijing Middle Road, Qingnian Road, North and East Linkuo roads on which some shops and institutions were smashed, looted and burnt by the rioters. Then they arrived at the Second Middle School of Lhasa which was partially burnt in the riot.

The schoolmaster talked about the whole process of how rioters burnt school buildings and their efforts to evacuate students and teachers.

George Manongi, minister of the Tanzanian embassy in China, said he felt very sad while seeing the burnt houses and wounded innocent people.

"Those 'peaceful protests' were in fact ended up with violence. No government will tolerate this," he said.

So far, at least 18 civilians, including an eight-month infant, and one police officer had been confirmed killed in the Lhasa unrest, which also saw 382 injuries. Damage was estimated at about 250 million yuan (35.21 million U.S. dollars), according to the regional government chairman, adding that no foreigners had been hurt in the unrest.

During his meeting with the delegation, Qiangba Puncog also urged Tibetan monks to stay out of politics, saying, "Politics is not in line with Buddhism doctrines."

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