But the conspirators in the Tibetan ruling class mistook the government's tolerance for weakness and accelerated their plans, said Wang. By 1959, more than 20,000 armed rebels had been assembled in Tibet, most of them in Lhasa. They began to build fortifications and dig trenches, all the while receiving military aid from foreign intelligence services. At the beginning of March 1959, 7,000 rebels seized control of the Potala Palace, the Norbulinka Monastery, the Jokhang Temple, the Ramoche Temple and other major public buildings in Lhasa, leaving the administration office and PLA bases camp sites under a state of siege.
The confrontation came to a head on March 10. That day Wang Qixue went to the PLA headquarters to watch a variety show, to which the Dalai Lama had been invited. The show did not start on time. Eventually a PLA officer, Tan Guansan, took the stage and announced that a rebellion had started at the Norbulinka Monastery. He said the Tibetan aristocratic ruling class had torn up the peace agreement and risen against the central government in order to separate Tibet from the motherland. He urged the audience to go back to their workplaces.
As Wang was leaving, "a car rushed in carrying a man with his head covered in blood. I found out that it was a Tibetan deputy commander who had been beaten by rebels at the Norbulinka Monastery where the Dalai Lama was living," he said. On his way back to the Post Office, Wang encountered a group of demonstrators carrying the snow lion flag and shouting "Independent Tibet" and "Han Chinese out of Tibet." Fearing for his life, he hid in a nearby building.
Later, Wang learned that rebel Tibetan aristocrats had been spreading rumors that the variety show had been organized by the PLA as a ploy to capture and kill the Dalai Lama. Using this pretext they had assembled lamas and other Tibetans at the Norbulinka Monastery on the fraudulent grounds of protecting the Dalai Lama. The monastery was by therefore surrounded by an excitable crowd and tragedy inevitably ensued. A Tibetan man recognized as the brother of a member of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region was denounced as a traitor and beaten to death. "His body was dragged behind a horse for two kilometers and paraded on the streets," Wang said.
Meanwhile rioters torched a bridge, the Xinhua News Agency's Lhasa branch, the offices of the Tibet Daily, and a number of other buildings. Rebels sabotaged electricity pylons and telephone lines. Posting bulletins calling for "Independence of Tibet" and forcing ordinary Tibetans to cooperate, they created an atmosphere of terror all over the Lhasa. The rebels even organized a march to the Indian consulate to call on the Indian government to support the "Tibetan independence movement."
In the afternoon, three cabinet ministers from the Tibetan aristocratic government arrived at PLA headquarters claiming to know nothing about the Dalai Lama's plan to watch the show. They said that in any case it would be impossible for him to come because monks and other Tibetan civilians were now blocking his route. The PLA officers and government officials retorted that the Dalai Lama had agreed to attend a show a month before, and the two sides had held many discussions about the matter. They said it was absolutely incredible that the Tibetan cabinet knew nothing about the matter, Wang remembered. Tan Guansan pointed out straightforwardly that the Dalai Lama's absence was part of a conspiracy hatched by reactionaries in the aristocratic regime. He said there was no future for the rebels and told the cabinet members to investigate the matter, impose penalties on those responsible, and ensure the safety of the Dalai Lama. His words enraged the cabinet members and they left immediately. Shortly afterward, armed rebel forces laid siege to the army and administration buildings.