The outbreak of violence died down in Lhasa Friday night, after a tumultuous day that saw windows smashed, shops robbed, mosque burnt down and reportedly many casualties.
Witnesses said the unrest started around 1:10 p.m. on Friday, several people clashed with and stoned the local police around the Ramogia Monastery in downtown Lhasa.
Rioters began gathering around 2 p.m. around the Ramogia Monastery, and set fire to shops along two main streets in the capital, and around Jokhang Temple, Ramogia Monastery and Chomsigkang Market. At least five blazing spots were reported and dense smoke was seen blanketing the area.
A number of shops, banks and hotels were burnt, causing blackouts and interruption of communications in some areas. Shops close to the Jokhang Temple and Ramogia Monastery were shut down.
A Tibetan government official told Xinhua that there had been enough evidence to prove that the sabotage in Lhasa was "organized, premeditated and masterminded" by the Dalai clique.
The violence, involving beating, smashing, looting and burning, has disrupted the public order and jeopardized people’s lives and property, the official said.
Xinhua reporters in Lhasa saw many rioters were carrying backpacks filled with stones and bottles of inflammable liquids, some holding iron bars, wooden sticks and long knifes, a sign that the crowd came fully prepared and meant harm.
The mobs assaulted passersby, sparing no women or children, witnesses said. They hit at things along their path, smashing windows, automatic teller machines and traffic lights. Several clothing shops, restaurants, and mobile phone stores were looted. Bikes, motorcycles and cars were burnt down.
The vandals started burning the local Sifang Supermarket, Landun Shopping Mall and Wenzhou Mall around 3:00 p.m. Friday, causing more blazing spots. A Muslim mosque was also set on fire at around 8:30 p.m..
There were injuries reported in the violence and the wounded were sent to the hospital. People were also seen burnt by the attackers. But death toll is not yet available.
Sources told Xinhua that policemen were ordered not to use force against the attacker. But they were forced to use a limited amount of tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse the desperate crowds.
Xinhua reporters learnt that many policemen on duty were badly injured.
Police have not made any announcement of arrest, but an officer said the search for the vandals could be difficult as the mobs disguised themselves in plain clothes as ordinary citizens.
Around midnight, fire-fighters and policemen were cleaning the burning wreckages discarded on the Beijing Middle Road, one of the main streets in downtown Lhasa.
Police cordoned off a few downtown sections and are on close lookout for comeback of violence.
The regional government took emergency measures to rescue residents under attack, reinforced protection for schools, hospitals and gas stations, and required the government agencies and businesses to ensure safety of their employees.
Local government imposed traffic control on the main streets in Lhasa Friday night and it also informed the citizens of the sabotage through TV, calling for them to take precautions.
A blogger who called himself Han Jingshan, a Lhasa resident, recalled the sabotage in a post titled Four-hour Personal Experience of Lhasa’s Riots.
The man drove a car onto the streets in the afternoon only to find flames with heavy smoke blanketing the area of the Ramogia Monastery and ambulances whistling by, according to the post.
"Arriving at the road entrance to the Ramogia Monastery, I saw the ground was covered with rocks weighing one or two kilograms and a cab was burnt down," he wrote.
"I saw a dozen of mobs, mainly young people in their twenties, were burning cars in front of the Baiyi Supermarket with more than 200 people standing by and watching," he said.
"At 17:56, a police car arrived and the mobs ran away. The police didn’t chase them as another two cabs were on fire at the New Jiangsu Avenue some 300 meters ahead."
"At this time, a Han Chinese women, whose face was bleeding, ran by me and later a cab with broken windows passed by," he wrote.
"The history of Tibet and even of China will remember the day of March 14 in 2008 forever," the writer said.