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Chinese officials have blamed clashes that led to the deaths of at least three Tibetans on separatist plots to attack police and public buildings.
Tibetan exiles and campaign groups said last week at least three Tibetans, and possibly many more, were shot dead after protests in the south-west province. The unrest is the most severe in the region since 2008.
A statement from the Sichuan government said police acted in self-defence, according to an article in the state-run English language newspaper China Daily.
“Evidence shows that the violent attacks in Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture were long plotted by separatist forces,” the Sichuan information office said.
“No country governed by law would tolerate such violence directed against police and aimed at separating the country.”
The Global Times described the incidents as “plotted copycats” of the riots in Lhasa in March 2008.
It said the statement did not refer to deaths from the riots, but quoted an official as saying two rioters had died.
According to China Daily, one rioter died and 10 police officers and firefighters were injured in Luhuo, Ganzi, on January 23 after a mob “unloaded rocks, batons and blades from vehicles and began to march along the street, shouting slogans for Tibet independence” before attempting to storm a local police station.
They smashed police and fire service vehicles, broke the police station’s windows and attacked police officers, throwing flaming gas bottles at them and trying to grab guns from armed officers, it said.
“[After giving warnings] the officers were forced to take actions to defend themselves according to the law and safeguard law itself,” the statement added.
China Daily said 14 officers were injured and a rioter died “after the police fought back” in an attack on a police station in Seda county, about 164km from Luhuo, the following afternoon.
It also repeated accusations that separatists have incited a spate of 16 self-immolations by Tibetans in the region over the last year.
The Global Times alleged that in both places: “Rioters ... smashed residential houses that had [lunar new year] decorations and lanterns, in an apparent attempt to intimidate people observing Han culture.”
Tibetan groups blame tightened religious and cultural controls for alienating residents, and an “increasingly disproportionate” response to protests for worsening unrest.
Verifying accounts of the violence has been impossible because journalists who have tried to visit the region have been turned back.
Global Times said armed police officers were checking inbound vehicles at the checkpoints along major routes leading to the counties, and police vehicles were present at major streets and squares—
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