- Title: CHINA: China sends troops west towards Tibet but claims all is calm in Lhasa
- Date: 18th March 2008
- Summary: (W3) KANGDING, SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA (MARCH 17, 2008) (REUTERS) TOP VIEW OF KANGDING CITY CENTRE PEOPLE WALKING ON THE STREET
- Embargoed: 2nd April 2008 10:05
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA31FAG2ZLRENX0AUPYYY3PTL9V
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Convoys of Chinese troops head west as Tibet unrest spreads to neighbouring Chinese provinces. And despite reports of rioting that threw the Tibetan capital Lhasa into chaos, Chinese state news broadcasts pictures of a city it says is back to normal.
Chinese troops were seen heading west on Monday (March 17) as Beijing said it had shown great restraint in the face of violent protests by Tibetans over the past week.
Throughout the day on Monday, military trucks and civilian buses were seen carrying the troops towards the direction of the western side of Sichuan province that is close to its provincial border with the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Even as the governor of Tibet said no guns were used against protesters in the regional capital, Lhasa, troops poured into neighbouring areas to enforce control after violent ethnic Tibetan protests that seem to have spread across the western region.
In Kangding, a city some 300 kilometres west of Chengdu in Sichuan province, troops were seen patrolling the streets in the city centre carrying guns and batons, in a show of force.
Police cars were parked across corners of the streets surrounding the city centre but most residents interviewed said the situation in the city was calm.
Shopkeeper Mr. Zhao said he was worried some ethnic Tibetans might take the chance to steal things from his shop.
"What I am worried about is that some of these Tibetans from the rural areas who come from poor economic backgrounds might come to steal things, or stuff like that," he said.
Others, like shopkeer Miss Gan, were unfazed by the increased security.
"There is no big problem. We feel okay, what I feel is that Kangding is calm relative to other places. I think we are okay here,"
said Miss Gan.
An ethnic Tibetan in Sichuan's Aba prefecture said fresh protests flared near two Tibetan schools on Monday, with hundreds of students facing off against police and troops.
The resident, who asked not be identified, said 18 people, including Buddhist monks and students, were killed when troops opened fire with guns on Sunday. Earlier a policeman was burnt to death, he said. His account could not be immediately verified.
The developments underscore how, even as China asserts iron control, the violence will hang over the country, with foreign protests, pleas for leniency and China's crackdown weighing uncomfortably on the build-up to Beijing hosting the Olympic Games in August.
In, Lhasa, residents are counting down to a midnight deadline for protesters to give themselves up or face tougher punishment.
Residents contacted there said the city was under tight police watch ahead of a Monday midnight deadline for protesters to give themselves up.
Foreign reporters are barred from traveling to Tibet without official permission and tourists have been asked to leave. Over a dozen Hong Kong journalists were forced out of Lhasa on Monday after being accused of illegal reporting.
Chinese state media on Monday night broadcast pictures of Lhasa that it said had returned to normal, in the wake of protests and violence that shook the city on Friday (March 14). The images on the evening news showed a peaceful city with clean streets, and regular industry.
It also showed children happily returning to school and studying, as well as markets full of vegetables and shoppers.
The Mayor of Lhasa, Doje Cezhug, was reported to have said that most roads were running smoothly, many organisations were back at work, and the students of many schools were back in lessons.
China's ruling communist party was clearly keen to play down the chaos in the city and emphasise its success in handling the situation.
This is not the first time this year the party employed its well-oiled propoganda machine in a national crisis - when bad weather caused chaos across much of China over the Spring Festival period, the news featured friendly soldiers handing out drinks and the army dutifully deicing roads.
The protests have been the largest in the Lhasa since protests in 1989 that rocked the capital.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala.
Beijing reviles him as a separatist though he says he only wants more autonomy for the region, which Communist troops entered in 1950.
The last major rioting in Tibet was in 1989.
Tibet is one of several potential flashpoints for the ruling Communist party at a time of heightened attention on China ahead of the Olympic Games.
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