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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 March 2008, 18:12 GMT
Lhasa eyewitness: 'City in cinders'
After days of violent street protests, a Western tourist in Lhasa, who wishes to remain anonymous, describes a tense, deserted city firmly in the hands of the Chinese military.


Police and army patrolling the streets of Lhasa
The army has been out in force on the streets of Lhasa
The city is in complete shutdown. There is no atmosphere whatsoever on the streets because there is a curfew and the streets are totally deserted.

This evening we have heard a few sporadic blasts once every few hours.

Right now, I'm looking at buildings that are burnt out. The city is absolutely burnt to cinders. It's trashed.

Nobody is allowed to leave our hostel without a military or police escort. I tried to leave the hostel three times. Each time I was stopped by the military or the police who prevented me from even going to the shop across the road.

Yesterday was calmer. Today, once again, people feel more on edge. Earlier today, trucks were rolling down the street outside our hostel bringing in thousands of troops.

The ultimatum set by the Chinese government for protesters to give themselves up is due to expire tomorrow. That is going to be the day that will decide a lot.

'Forcibly removed'

Our current hostel is in a safe area, in a kind of 'green zone' as people are calling it. The worst of the violence was in the centre and east of the city.

Some tourists who were in the east were forcibly removed from their hotels and hostels. Police turned up today and tried to forcibly remove all of us to a hotel further out west.

The sense is that we are not going to be allowed to walk the streets and observe the carnage. During the violence police were confiscating SIM cards from people's cameras.

The electricity in our hostel is out even though all the buildings nearby have electricity. You sense that it might be because they know tourists with cameras and email accounts are here and could contact the outside world.

The manager of this hostel is very unhappy about the amount of Westerners still here. They would rather we were all gone.

'Mass hysteria'

I can understand the fear.

Our major concern was being burnt because protesters were setting fire to buildings
I was in a Chinese-run hostel at the height of the violence on Friday and it was terror. People were hysterical. Property was completely damaged. We were on the rooftop of the hostel and witnessed the chaos.

We were looking out over Lhasa and the entire city was on fire.

As the unrest broke out the demonstrators were simply being contained by the police. The protest seemed organised initially but it quickly turned into an unruly mob ethic which targeted Chinese people and businesses.

We watched as the crowd got closer to our own hostel.

Our hostel was largely occupied by Chinese people and they were panic-stricken. They armed themselves with anything they could find; beer bottles, meat cleavers. They started to break chairs and windows to arm themselves.

There was mass hysteria.

Our major concern was being burnt because protesters were setting fire to buildings. When they got to our building, we armed ourselves with fire extinguishers.

The violence may have begun on Friday at 2pm but it felt like it had been brewing for 50 years. It was frustration that had spilled over. People had taken too much. That was the impression we got.

Tibetans wanted the world to know what they were doing.





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