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Tourist video shows riot, flames in Tibetan capital

  • Story Highlights
  • Michael Smith shot video of anti-Chinese rioting in Lhasa, Tibet, last week
  • The Australian tourist videotaped Tibetans smashing windows, setting fires
  • Once home, Smith shared his video with Australia's ABC News

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(CNN) -- Australian tourist Michael Smith says he was eating lunch in a restaurant in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, on Friday when he heard an explosion and saw smoke.


Video shot by an Australian tourist shows protesters in the streets of Lhasa, Tibet, last week.

As armored vehicles and trucks carrying Chinese soldiers rushed past, Smith started videotaping.

"We're standing here in the middle of Lhasa and the place has just [expletive] exploded," Smith narrated during the rioting.

Smith, who was traveling in Tibet when anti-Chinese rioting broke out Friday, returned home this week with dramatic video of the violence in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, which aired on Australian TV on Wednesday. Video Watch Smith's video of chaos in streets »

Tibetan exile groups maintain at least 80 people were killed by Chinese security forces that day, but Chinese authorities insist they acted with restraint and killed no one. Instead, China says 13 "innocent people" were killed, some brutally burned, by the Tibetan rioters.

No apparent deaths or injuries were seen on the video, which Smith shared with Australia's ABC News, a CNN affiliate.

The video shows Tibetans smashing windows and setting fire to Chinese shops and cars, while people are heard cheering. It also shows Chinese security forces, but no clashes between them and the rioters.

"It's absolute mayhem on the streets," Smith said.

Other video released of the rioting was broadcast by the Chinese government's CCTV, and it did not include pictures of Chinese security forces.

Smith said as he made his way back to his hotel on Friday, he "met so many Tibetan people on the streets, so many young Tibetan boys just screaming for Tibet's freedom."

"We don't have any freedoms," one young Tibetan male shouted to Smith's camera.

"The Tibetan people are going crazy," Smith said. Photo See protests around the world over Tibet »

Many of the businesses targeted by the rioters were operated by Han Chinese, China's largest ethnic group. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, has blamed the violent protests on deep resentment fueled by Chinese treatment of Tibetans as "second-class citizens in their own land."

Tibetan activists said an influx of Han Chinese from other provinces is threatening their ancient culture.

While many of these "Free Tibet" activists demand independence from China, the Dalai Lama said he wants only "genuine autonomy" so that Tibetans can preserve their heritage. Video Watch Tibetans on horseback storm a Chinese town »

Meanwhile, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday that more than 100 people surrendered themselves to police and admitted involvement in the clashes last week in Lhasa.

Tibet's regional government said 105 people had turned themselves in to authorities by 11 p.m. Tuesday (1:15 p.m. ET), Xinhua said.


Authorities had urged those who participated in the protests to turn themselves in, offering them leniency if they did.

"Those who surrender and provide information on other lawbreakers will be exempt from punishment," Xinhua quoted a police notice as saying. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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