By Mike MacLachlan
As many as five ethnic Tibetans may have been killed during a demonstration in Sichuan province on January 24, according to various Tibetan media organizations.
China’s official Xinhua news agency has confirmed that police shot dead one “rioter” and injured another after a violent mob attacked them with knives, petrol bombs and guns in Serthar town.
The London-based Free Tibet exile group said two were dead, adding that local people described the town as being under curfew and said they were staying in their homes for fear of being shot.
It had the names of 36 people who were wounded, it said.
The incident came a day after security forces shot at a crowd of Tibetans protesting against religious repression in the nearby town of Luhuo.
At least two were killed and more than 30 wounded, according to Agence France-Presse.
Tibetans were planning to gather at the funeral today of one of the Luhuo victims to show solidarity, Free Tibet said.
This week’s reported shootings came amid mounting protests in the province, which has a large population of ethnic Tibetans.
At least 16 people have set themselves ablaze in less than a year — including four this month — in protest at the lack of religious freedom, AFP said.
The US said it was “seriously concerned” at the situation and called on Chinese security forces to “exercise restraint.”
Maria Otero, US special coordinator for Tibetan issues, said Washington had repeatedly urged China to address “counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas”.
Lobsang Sangay, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in India, called on the international community “to not remain passive” and “to intervene to prevent further bloodshed.”
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, accused “overseas secessionist groups” of trying to discredit the government by exaggerating accounts of what happened.