Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Monday, 17 March 2008

Tibet anti-China protests spread

Michael Bristow
BBC News, Lanzhou, Gansu province

student protest at North Western Minorities University, Tibet ( image courtesy of the Free Tibet campaign)
Tibetan students in Lanzhou held a candle-lit vigil at the weekend

Protests against Chinese rule in Tibet have spread to provinces bordering the Himalayan region, as the demonstrations enter their second week.

In an escalation of the protests, Tibetans have staged demonstrations in the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan.

China's Ministry of Public Security ordered an increased police presence in these areas on Saturday, a source in the Gansu government told the BBC.

Security was certainly tighter around Lanzhou's North-Western Minorities University, where about 100 Tibetan students staged a protest on Sunday.

Blocked by police

When we visited the university on Monday, we found the main gate closed and dozens of police officers patrolling the campus.

Police cars were parked at major road intersections that lead up to the university, which has hundreds of Tibetan students.

Students at the university initially held a demonstration at the campus sports stadium, according to Sangay Tashi of the Free Tibet Campaign.

Police on the road leading up to the university in Lanzhou
There is a high police presence near the university

He said they were stopped by police when they tried to take their demonstration out of the university and onto the streets of Lanzhou.

"They then decided to stage a candle-lit vigil inside the campus and were joined by hundreds of other students," said Mr Sangay, who has spoken to some of the students.

Tibetans in other areas of China outside Tibet appear to have joined the protests that began on 10 March, the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

There were demonstrations at the Rongwo Monastery in the Qinghai city of Tongren, where monks defied a ban to stay at home, according to news reports.

There also appear to have been protests on Sunday in the Aba region of Sichuan Province, and in the town of Machu in Gansu.

According to the Free Tibet Campaign, the Machu protesters marched to government buildings, breaking doors and windows. They also set fire to Chinese shops and businesses.

Little public sympathy

In Lanzhou, ordinary people appear to know little of what is going on in Gansu's Tibetan regions and beyond.

I understand the disturbance has been organized by the Dalai Lama to target the Olympics
Man in Lanzhou

In the Lanzhou Morning Post there was no mention of the trouble that had erupted just down the road in the province's Gannan Autonomous Tibetan prefecture.

The front-page headline in the Lanzhou Morning Post followed the lead of the previous night's news bulletins, reporting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's re-selection as the county's premier.

When asked about the protests, one woman told the BBC: "The price of consumer goods has gone up very rapidly so I think the demonstrations must be linked to that."

Ordinary people that wanted to comment on the protests had little sympathy with the Tibetans and their cause.

"I think they are causing a disturbance without reason. I understand it has been organised by the Dalai Lama to target the Olympics," said one man.

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