Sources told RFA’s Tibetan service that the annual Lithang (in Chinese, Litang) Horse Race Festival, which was scheduled to run from Aug.1-7 and drew tens of thousands of spectators, was cut short because of clashes over who won third place.
“This year when the main horse race took place on Aug. 3, there were no disputes regarding the first- and second-place winners,” one source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Third place was actually won by a local nomadic horse racer, but the [Lithang county] authorities declared a horse owned by a government official as third-place winner.” All the contestants were Tibetan.
The Tibetan nomads were enraged, and the father of the Tibetan horseman who they believed was the rightful winner went to complain at the Lithang police station, where he was beaten by police, sources said. Three other men were also beaten, witnesses said. All four refused to seek medical attention and instead commandeered a stage at the horse festival that was to be used for a cultural performance, they said.
Angry over the beating and the disputed result, several hundred Tibetan nomads went to the police station and ransacked it on Aug. 4, after which county authorities canceled the rest of the Lithang festival, the sources said. During the scuffle, police fired warning shots into the air and the Tibetans responded by pelting them with stones, witnesses said.
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