Chinese police 'fired on Tibetans marking Dalai Lama birthday'

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama prays during a talk to young Tibetans at the Tibetan Children's Village School in Dharamsala, India, Thursday, June 27, 2013
Image caption The incident took place as crowds gathered to commemorate the Dalai Lama

Chinese police opened fire on Tibetans who had gathered to mark the Dalai Lama's birthday, injuring several, rights groups and reports say.

The incident happened in Daofu in Sichuan province on 6 July.

A crowd had gathered at a mountain to mark the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's birthday with offerings and incense, when police used tear gas and opened fire, the reports said.

China's Foreign Ministry said it was unaware of the reports, Reuters said.

A woman who answered the phone at the Daofu Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau told the BBC: "No one in the office knows this issue." Daofu police, when contacted, also said they had "no idea about that".

Confirming details about incidents in the region is difficult - Chinese state media report some but not all. Foreign journalists are not allowed in and the flow of information is tightly controlled.

'Shot at crowd'

The International Campaign for Tibet said in a statement that many of those assembled at the mountain were monks and nuns.

"Large numbers of armed police and soldiers were deployed, with one source reporting at least seven army trucks and police vehicles at the scene," it said.

Security personnel attempted to prevent the crowds from making their offerings, it said.

"Without warning, according to several Tibetan sources, police opened fire on the unarmed crowd and used tear gas," it said.

Two monks were shot in the head and several others injured, the ICT statement said.

Phayul, an exile-run news portal, said one monk was in a critical condition after being shot in the head, with at least four more "severely injured".

"They smashed doors and windows of our vehicles and started beating Tibetans gathered in the area and dispersed the Tibetans and started shooting at the crowd," an unidentified local resident was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia.

One of those who was shot was the brother of a nun who set herself on fire in 2011, RFA and Phayul said.

A statement from rights group Free Tibet said photos of the injured "appear to show evidence of gunshot wounds, surface-level bullet wounds and beatings".

In recent years more than 110 ethnic Tibetans - mostly young monks and nuns living in areas outside Tibet - have set themselves on fire in apparent protest against Beijing's rule.

Most of the incidents have taken place in areas of Sichuan province with large ethnic Tibetan populations.

Late last month, the Chinese government issued a strong denial of reports that its long-standing ban on openly worshipping the Dalai Lama had changed.

The move followed reports that restrictions on worshipping the Dalai Lama had been eased in some areas.

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