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Tourists recount a day of mob rule
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Overseas tourists who were still in Lhasa yesterday said Friday's riots were senseless violence, and several complained they had to cut short their travel plans.

A man from Sweden who gave his name only as Janne said the situation is safe now, but he saw people chased and badly hurt by Friday's mobs.

"It happened suddenly. People started to smash glass windows, burn cars and shops, and they became more aggressive," Janne said.

He was eating at a Chinese restaurant on the East Beijing Road when a riot started.

The Swede, in his forties, has been on a cycling trip in southwestern China's Tibet Autonomous Region for the past four months, and was staying at the Phuncor Khasan International Youth Hotel.

"When I got back to the hotel, the manager told me I should not go out any more," he said.

Janne said the rioters were carrying knives, iron bars and backpacks full of rock.

"The unrest was definitely well-organized," he said. "It was senseless. Most of the people engaged in the arson were young people.

"I also saw a Canadian man who intervened to stop the mob punching one of the victims. The mob then retreated and the man escorted the victim to the backyard."

He said he didn't see any fights between police and the rioters that day.

"I saw the reports, but the descriptions don't correspond with what I saw," he said.

Asked about his travel plans, he said he planned to stay on for a couple of weeks before heading to northwestern China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region. "I think the city situation is stable now, and people are shopping in supermarkets. I'm relieved the riot is over," he said.

Lhasa is now recovering from the violence, but several tourists said yesterday their travel plans had to be cut short because of the unrest.

Four Hong Kong tourists, who were at the same hotel with Janne but preferred not to be named, said they were flying out today.

A Japanese tourist who gave his name as Oguma Kenichi said he was also leaving.

Ju Jianhua, director of the autonomous region's foreign affairs office, said no foreigner was harmed in the riots.

"The government of Tibet Autonomous Region has attached great importance to the safety of lives and property of foreign experts, students and tourists in Tibet." Ju said.

(Xinhua News Agency March 18, 2008)

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