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Chinese state media says blasts damage police cars

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[March 09, 2009]  KANGDING, China (AP) -- Homemade bombs damaged two police vehicles in a Tibetan part of western China on Monday, even as authorities stepped up security and sealed off more areas ahead of volatile anniversaries marking two Tibetan uprisings.

Chinese police increased patrols outside frequently restive Buddhist monasteries and scaled up screenings at checkpoints, officials and monitoring groups said. Authorities expanded their security cordon, declaring the mixed Chinese-Tibetan city of Kangding off-limits to foreigners.

The tighter security was meant to head off trouble around Tuesday's anniversaries -- an uprising 50 years ago against Chinese rule that sent the Dalai Lama into exile and protests last year that became the most widespread, violent revolt by Tibetans in decades.

Early Monday, small bombs ripped the emergency lights and roofs off a police car and fire engine at a remote timber farm in Qinghai province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. No fatalities were reported, and no cause was given. A local official, surnamed Qi, confirmed the explosion but did not provide other details.

But the blasts, made by "unsophisticated homemade explosives," came hours after a clash between locals and police who were inspecting vehicles at the Makahe timber farm, Xinhua said.

In recent weeks, China has upped the police and military presence in Tibetan areas -- a quarter of Chinese territory that stretches from Tibet to parts of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces. Convoys of armored vehicles and sandbagged sentry posts have turned the region into something of an armed camp.

Armed police patrolled outside the Rebkong monastery in Tongren in larger than usual numbers over the weekend, the Tibet affairs watching blog, High Peaks Pure Land, reported. The account was confirmed by a person at the Rebkong Arts Research Institute next to the monastery.

The 1959 uprising and last year's both started in Lhasa, Tibet's capital. After Lhasa erupted in ethnic rioting last March 14, demonstrations spread across the region. Some of the worst violence occurred in strongly traditional communities in the mountains where Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai converge and home to large Buddhist monasteries that have chafed under Chinese-imposed religious controls.

Officials in Sichuan's Ganzi prefecture said they received an emergency notice from the provincial government, ordering foreigners -- including reporters -- out of Kangding, the last corner of Ganzi to remain open.

"There is a special situation and we hope you can leave as soon as possible," Zhang Lijuan of the Ganzi prefecture foreign affairs office told Associated Press reporters in Kangding. "Normally, this is an open place and we would welcome you. But because of this special situation, it's not convenient."

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Li said she could not reveal the reason for the closure but said Kangding was also temporarily sealed off after last year's demonstrations. She said she did not know when the area would be reopened.

The streets of Kangding were busy as usual Monday. Police cordoned off traffic in front of the main square, where riot police and machine gun-toting soldiers now regularly march past.

The closing of Ganzi adds to the difficulties of verifying events in a huge region. Internet and mobile phone text-messaging services have also been suspended in the past half month in Ganzi and neighboring Aba prefecture.

In Beijing, a top police official said border controls in Tibet were tightened to prevent disruptions by supporters of the Dalai Lama, Xinhua reported.

"We have made due deployment and tightened controls at border ports, and key areas and passages along the border in Tibet," Fu Hongyu, political commissar of the Ministry of Public Security Border Control Department, was quoted as saying.

Despite the efforts, acts of protest continue. Dozens of monks from Gomang monastery in Aba marched, shouting "Long live the Dalai Lama" and "We want human rights," to show support for a monk who had set himself ablaze at a nearby monastery to protest religious repression, according to accounts from Phayul.com, a Tibetan Web site, and Students for a Free Tibet.

[Associated Press; By AUDRA ANG]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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