16-year-old schoolgirl Lhundup Tso was among up to 23 Tibetan protesters killed when Chinese police opened fire last Sunday, March 16, 2008, in Ngaba County (Ch: Aba Xian), Ngaba "TAP", Sichuan Province. She was reportedly shot in the back of the head. (Phayul.com)
The monks of Kirti monastery in Aba, Sichuan, western China, are said to have found a 16-year-old schoolgirl among up to 23 Tibetan protesters killed when Chinese police opened fire last Sunday.
Lhundup Tso, the youngest reported victim of the Chinese crackdown, still had her school satchel strapped to her back. Her body was taken to the monastery with the other dead to document what Tibetan officials claim was a massacre.
They fear it may be one of several carried out by Chinese armed police in an attempt to put down the largest Tibetan uprising in almost 20 years.
Tso is said to have been among 2,500 Tibetans, led by monks, who marched towards the local government headquarters chanting, “Long live the Dalai Lama,” and other independence slogans. They set off at 11.30am and were confronted by about 200 members of the People’s Armed Police, in combat kit and carrying machineguns.
According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, which said last week that it had confirmed 23 deaths, the police opened fire to disperse the crowd.
The centre’s director, Urgen Tenzin, said the shooting had caused panic and a stampede. Tso was found lying face up on the ground, but monks who took her body to the monastery said she had been shot in the back of the head.
Lying nearby was her fellow pupil at Aba Tibetan middle school, a 17-year-old named Norbu, who had been taken to the monastery and photographed along with five other victims. His thin torso was smeared with blood and there was a bullet hole in his chest.
The only available picture of Tso shows her very much alive. She is posing for the camera, with her black shoulder-length hair tucked behind her ears and a smile joining the ruddy cheeks that identify the Tibetans of this exposed farming region high on the Tibetan plateau.
Her father Jigshe and mother Sherab are believed to be semi-nomadic farmers who move to higher pastures in the summer months. They were said to be especially proud of their daughter, who was described as one of the brightest students in her year and top of the class in maths and Tibetan language.
Chinese government reports claim there were no deaths in Aba on Sunday, but Xinhua, its official news agency, reported that police had opened fire at protesters “in self-defence”.
Demonstrators, many of them Tso’s fellow pupils, had attacked schools, hospitals and the government headquarters with petrol bombs and rocks, the agency reported. They had set fire to cars and Chinese-owned shops and attacked local Chinese with knives. The rioters had even burnt down a police station and tried to seize weapons from its officers, Xinhua claimed.
Tibetan campaigners dismiss the claims as “propaganda”.