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Tibetan high school students protest in west China

Last Updated: Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 12:43

Beijing: Tibetan high school students protested in the streets of at least two towns in western China this week to mark the anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule, and some have been detained, residents said on Thursday.

The demonstrations appear to be the first unrest in tightly-controlled Tibetan areas at a highly sensitive time. March is the anniversary of both spiritual leader the Dalai Lama`s flight into exile decades ago, and an uprising across the areas in 2008.

Beijing has stepped up its security presence and promised to pour extra cash into development to calm the restive and strategically vital border region.

But critics say if China does not address Tibetan concerns about the loss of their culture and heritage, stability will remain elusive.

At least 20 teenagers were taken into custody by police in the remote western town of Hezuo on Wednesday, shortly after a larger group began a protest, a hotel clerk there said.

Hezuo is in a Tibetan corner of Gansu province.

She declined to give her name, or comment on the motive for the protest, saying "only themselves know".

On March 14, dozens of teenagers also took to the streets of Machu, also in Gansu, chanting pro-Tibetan slogans, said a supermarket manager who himself is Han Chinese. He was not clear if anyone was arrested.

The town is now crawling with military police and feels safe and calm, said the manager, who declined to give his name because ethnic tensions in Tibetan areas are politically sensitive, and discussing them with foreign journalists risks punishment.

A string of checkpoints have also been set up along the road to Langmu temple, around 70 km (43 miles) away, since Sunday, a hotel employee near the monastery said, but added that he did not know the details of what happened in Machu.

The Gansu foreign affairs office and the Gansu provincial information office said they had not heard of any protests. Police in Machu and Hezuo did not answer calls.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 12:43
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