The Chinese military is shooting Tibetan demonstrators "like dogs," a Tibetan exile group said Monday, firing "indiscriminately" intro groups of people protesting Chinese rule.
The accusation was leveled by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a group run by exiled Tibetans in Dharamsala, India, home to the Dalai Lama. Exile groups in India receive some of the few reports from inside Tibet and have provided some of the only reporting from there since last Monday, when the most significant Tibetan protests in 20 years began.
"People have been saying they're shooting our people like dogs," Tenzin Norgay, the spokesman for the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, told ABC News, citing his sources inside Tibet. He spoke just a few hours after a deadline set by the Chinese government expired for the protestors to stop or face a crackdown. The protests, he says, continued, and so did the retaliation.
"From reports we have been able to gather, the military forces, they do not tolerate anything more than a few minutes and then immediately they begin shooting or beating. And if the crowd goes out of control they shoot indiscriminately," Norgay said.
He said his group had confirmed that 55 protestors had been shot to death in the last few days. The Tibetan government in exile, which is seated in Dharamsala, maintains that it has confirmed at least 80 deaths in the capital of Lhasa alone during one week of protests.
If the Chinese military is in fact shooting into crowds, the accusation is impossible to prove. The Chinese government has kicked all journalists out of the region and exiled groups' sources are anonymous and refuse to speak directly to the media for fear of their safety.
The Chinese government denies shooting protestors over the last week, saying that Tibetans themselves are at fault.
The "atrocities of the Tibetan independence forces manifested ... the hypocrisy and deceit of its peace and non-violence propaganda," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, according to the Associated Press. "The Chinese government will unwaveringly protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
"Unwavering" for China has clearly meant a massive mobilization of soldiers and police to quell the protests. ABC News witnessed hundreds of buses filled with soldiers, rumbling along the road to Tibet on Monday, hours before the deadline expired.
But the protestors themselves have also been unwavering, and seem to be more aggressive than ever.
They have burned buildings, attacked cars with baseball bats and thrown rocks at Chinese authorities. Those methods have long been used by revolutionaries around the world, but never so often by Tibetans.
And as the actions and rhetoric on both sides rose over the last week, a fault line within the Tibetan independence movement has been exposed.
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the movement, the living God who won a Nobel Peace Prize for advancing non-violent protest in Tibet. But the 72-year-old's faith in Gandhian resistance has left some of his followers frustrated.
"He is the leader, yes, but every single Tibetan has the responsibility" to fight for independence, Tsewang Rigzin, the president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, told reporters in Dharamsala. "The issue of Tibet is not an issue of an individual or an individual organization. The issue of Tibet has to do with every single Tibetan. "