August 19, 2014 / 9:32 AM / 5 years ago

Rights groups say two dead following Tibetan protests

BEIJING (Reuters) - Two people have died, including one who committed suicide in protest while in jail, and many are in custody after police opened fire on a demonstration in a Tibetan region of China last week, rights groups said.

The protest erupted over the detention of a respected village leader in the Ganzi prefecture of Sichuan province, rights groups say, a flashpoint for Tibetan protests against Chinese rule.

The U.S.-based International Campaign for Tibet, citing several Tibetan sources in exile, said late on Monday that of the 10 injured in the demonstrations, two have since died.

One killed himself in detention in protest about the crackdown, while another man died of his injuries, the group said.

After the unrest all male villagers over the age of about 12 were arrested apart from a few elderly men, it added.

“This alarming news indicates that the authorities in this area are apparently acting with complete and dangerous impunity,” said Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet.

“Not only was lethal force once again used to suppress a peaceful demonstration, but now two Tibetans have died in horrifying circumstances in detention.”

Another group, the British-based Free Tibet, said that apart from the two deaths, some Tibetans who had been injured and taken to hospital were later returned to detention facilities and denied further medical treatment.

It put the number of detained at about 200.

Calls to the police in Ganzi seeking comment went unanswered.

Human rights activists say China tramples on religious freedom and culture in Tibet, which it has ruled with an iron fist since People’s Liberation Army troops “peacefully liberated” the region in 1950.

China rejects such criticism, saying its rule ended serfdom and brought development to a backward, poverty-stricken region.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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