BEIJING -- At least six Tibetans were injured when Chinese paramilitary police fired on a crowd that was attempting to commemorate the Dalai Lama's birthday in a volatile part of western China, sources in the exile Tibetan community said Monday.
The shooting Saturday in Sichuan province's Daofu county marks an escalation of tensions in an area already on edge over a wave of self-immolations by Tibetans and a massive security presence. Daofu, known in Tibetan as Tawu, and the surrounding prefecture of Ganzi were home to several of the reported 119 Tibetans who have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese restrictions on Buddhism and denigration of the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India.
Tawu Lobsang Jinpa, a former prisoner also in exile in India, said he was told of the shootings by a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was caring for one of those injured in the Saturday clash. The London-based International Campaign for Tibet said it confirmed the shooting, in which one monk suffered a serious head wound.
They both said police fired guns and tear gas at about 500 Tibetans attempting to hold commemorations by scaling a hillside to burn incense and hang prayer flags calling for good health for the 78-year-old Dalai Lama, Tibet's traditional Buddhist leader. Chinese authorities have denounced him as a political opportunist since he escaped amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
Daofu lies in the former Tibetan territory of Kham that was separated from Tibet proper after China's occupation of the Himalayan region in 1950. China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were essentially independent for most of that time.