The Chinese government confirmed on Tuesday that two Tibetans had been executed in connection with last year’s riots in Lhasa.
This is the first official confirmation of executions over the violence in Tibet last March which left at least 22 people dead. At least 76 people have been charged in connection with the violence, and hundreds have been detained.
Tibetan exiled groups said last week four people had been executed, and also alleged the trials had not been conducted fairly.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said on Tuesday that two Tibetans had been executed in connection with the violence. He also defended the judicial process, saying the accused had been given a full hearing and access to lawyers.
In mass riots that broke out on March 14, 2008, Tibetan rioters attacked Han Chinese immigrants in Lhasa, who have migrated to the region in large numbers, and set fire to shops. The riots, the biggest unrest Tibet has seen in more than two decades, also spread to other provinces in China with Tibetan populations, such as Qinghai and Sichuan. According to official estimates, the violence left 22 people dead. Tibetan groups have questioned official figures.
Lobsang Gyaltsen was sentenced to death for setting fire to garment shops and killing a shop owner, while Loyak was sentenced to death for setting fire to a motorcycle shop, state media reported in April. These are the two people believed to have been executed.
News of the executions led to a minor diplomatic spat between London and Beijing this week, with British Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis condemning the executions. He said while London respected China’s right to bring those responsible for the violence to justice, the United Kingdom had raised concerns “about lack of due process in these cases”.
Mr. Ma said on Tuesday the trials were an internal matter of China and other countries had no right to interfere in China’s judicial processes.
Chinese officials have so far released little information on the convictions of the 76 people charged with crimes. State media reported in April that two people had been sentenced to death for starting fires that resulted in deaths. But hundreds are still believed to be in detention, and many still have not been prosecuted.
Chinese authorities have contrastingly moved fast in prosecuting those involved with July’s riots in the Muslim majority Xinjiang region, the biggest ethnic unrest China has seen since the violence in Tibet last year. Twenty one people have already been charged, nine of whom were given the death sentence.