Chinese forces shoot Tibetans in national flag feud

At least 60 Tibetans who protested over the weekend against the arrest of a local leader in the fight against orders to fly the Chinese flag in western China's Tibetan Autonomous Region were shot and wounded by security forces, media reports and Tibet's government-in-exile said Tuesday.

In a move to strengthen control in the Tibetan inhabited region, Tibetans were told to fly the national flag at home to foster "patriotism," which fanned anti-China sentiment among Tibetans.

The incident Sunday in Biru County happened when a crowd gathered to confront police attempting to search the home of Dorje Draktsel, who was detained last week after taking part in local protests against the flag order, U.S.-based Radio Free Asia quoted sources as saying.

Armed police opened fire at the crowd, leaving many with gunshot wounds while some were knocked unconscious by tear-gas canisters.

At least two of the protesters were critically wounded while many of the injured have still not received medical care, according to the sources.

Besides Draktsel, another protester, Tsering Gyaltsen, was earlier detained and brutally beaten after being identified as a ringleader of an earlier protest, RFA said.

Security has been beefed up as hundreds of paramilitary police set up checkpoints on major roads, while mobile phones were confiscated and telecommunications blocked, and Tibetans wandering without identity cards were taken away, the report said.

The Central Tibetan Administration described the repressive measures as the "Cultural Revolution years being imposed" in the region.

A large number of Chinese officials and work teams arrived in the region in September to carry out the flag-flying measures. Over 40 Tibetan protesters were arrested Sept. 29 in Biru, which led to more protests in the nearby area to demand the release of the arrested, the authority said.

An anti-Chinese protest led by Tibetan monks and people broke out in the city of Lhasa in 2008, and the subsequent military crackdown left as many as 200 people killed and hundreds imprisoned or detained ever since, according to pro-independence Tibetan groups.

More than 120 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009 in protest against Chinese repression and called for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan's exiled spiritual leader who was vilified by China as a separatist despite his call for true autonomy in Tibet.