Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Friday, 21 March 2008

Tibetan monk speaks out

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Police are searching for Tibetans who took part in demonstrations in Hezuo in China's Gansu Province, according to a monk who lives in the town.

He also told the BBC that the protests were started by school pupils after they heard about the protests in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Chinese paramilitary police in Zhongdian, Yunnan province
Troops have been sent to areas with high concentrations of Tibetans

But the monk added that he did not agree with the violence - from either Tibetans or the Chinese government - and did not support Tibetan independence.

Hezuo is in Gansu's Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. There has been major unrest in the area since last Saturday.

The BBC has just left the town, which has been taken over by the Chinese military. Soldiers armed with assault rifles stood guard on approach roads.

'Tough students'

The monk has provided rare details of what is happening in Hezuo, from where it has been difficult to get accurate information.

I don't hate Han people - but the government keeps using violence to suppress us, and that won't solve any problems between the Tibetans and the Han
Tibetan monk
"The police are all around government buildings, they are searching the streets," he told the BBC by telephone.

He said students from two schools began the demonstrations in Hezuo because they were "dissatisfied with the suppression in Lhasa", said the Tibetan monk.

"We heard that those students are really tough, they smashed cars and shops."

But he added: "All this fighting and killing and beating up Han Chinese people is really bad. We want peace."

Han Chinese are the dominant ethnic group in China, accounting for more than 90% of the population.

Many Tibetans complain they are losing their culture, and jobs, because Han people are increasing moving to Tibet.

"I don't hate Han people. But the government keeps using violence to suppress us, and that won't solve any problems between the Tibetans and the Han," said the monk.

Midnight deadline

He added that he agreed with the Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetans in exile, who says he wants more autonomy for Tibet, not independence.

"It doesn't matter whether Tibet is independent or not, as long as Tibetans live in happiness," he said.

Protesters in Gannan have been given until midnight on 25 March to hand themselves in to the authorities, according to a notice posted in Hezuo.

Those who turn themselves in will be treated leniently, those who do not will be dealt with harshly, the notice added.

The local government has promised protection and rewards for those who turn in protesters, people China says are criminals.

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