At least one protester was killed and perhaps as many as 50 others wounded in western China on Monday, as violence between Tibetan activists and Chinese security forces continues to escalate. The Tibetan exile government in India says as many as six protesters may have been killed, but those totals are unconfirmed. Yesterday's incident was the second time in two weeks that police have opened fire on protesters, though this may be the most violent confrontation in the region since 2008.
It's believed this latest protest was related to a proposed boycott by the Tibetan people of Monday's Chinese New Year celebrations. (Tibetan celebrate their New Year next month.) Chinese news agencies say a police station was attacked by a crowd "wielding knives and hurling stones."
Since March of last year, 17 people have set themselves on fire in Sichuan province in protest of the Communist government's restrictions on religion in the area still euphemistically known as the "Tibetan Autonomous Region." The increase in the frequency and the extreme nature of these protests suggests a growing unrest among Tibetan activists that may soon explode into a larger confrontation between the Communist government in Beijing and those seeking a Free Tibet. It also signals that a younger generation of Buddhist monks are turning to more radical and potentially violent methods to combat government oppression.
China has already announced the entire region will be closed to outside visitors throughout the upcoming New Year's season in February and March and journalists have been barred since April. The government has also shut down Internet access to most of the two involved in the recent protests.