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Tibetans mourn five young women who died in riot
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21:51, March 21, 2008

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More than 100 citizens mourned five women victims of the Tibet riot in front of the shop where they died.

Holding lilies and candles, mourners shuffled slowly forward in a queue. They put flowers and candles in front of the young women's photos posted on the burnt wall of the shop.

The five were sales assistants in a Yishion clothing store on a busy commercial street in downtown Lhasa. They were burnt to death in a fire started by rioters during the Lhasa riot last week.

They were Cering Zhoigar from Xigaze, Han Xinxin from Henan Province, and Chen Jia, Yang Dongmei and Liu Yan all from neighboring Sichuan Province.

"We were surrounded by yelling and the noise of windows shattering sometime after 2 p.m.," said their 20-year-old colleague Zhoi'ma, the only survivor.

The young women huddled together, shaking and crying, when the mobs broke in to smash up the shop, Zhoi'ma said. "We were too scared to even breath."

When flames spread upstairs, Zhoi'ma was the only one who squeezed through a small gap torn in the shop door by the mob.

"I can't eat. I can't sleep. I see their faces whenever I close my eyes," Zhoi'ma said.

"I should have looked back. I shouted to them to follow me. I thought they were following me, but they didn't," said Zhoi'ma, the only survivor. "If I had looked back, they would be with me now."

Chen Jia, 18 and the youngest of the five, sent a text message to her father at 3:42 p.m. on that fateful day, saying, "Mobs are killing people around my shop. We dare not go out. Don't worry about me. Tell mum and my sister not to go out."

Ten minutes later, the shop was on fire.

"My girl was wonderful. We all loved her," said Chen Jun, Chen Jia's father said.

Yishion's owner, Tang Yanqing, from neighboring Qinghai Province, later found the bodies in the attic of her shop.

They were sitting and lying around a bed, their faces burnt black, said Tang, whose younger cousin Yang Dongmei was among the dead.

Cering Zhoigar's aunt fainted when she saw the site of the 21-year-old's death on Tuesday, said Cering Zhoigar's brother, Damzhin.

"Why did they do this to her?" asked Damzhin.

A young women works nearby named Ma Xiaolan burst into tears at the scene. She said: "Cering Zhoigar and Chen Jia were my best friends in Lhasa. I knocked on Yishion's door to warn them to escape in time. I didn't know that it would be the final goodbye."

A young Tibetan named Samzhub and his four colleagues hurried to the site from another town on hearing the sad story. They put their candles in front of the photos and bowed.

"I am too sad to say anything. These mobs were merciless," Samzhub said.

The 18-year-old Chen Jia's father murmured again and again: "Jiajia, I wish you a good journey to heaven."

Chen Jun thanked the people who had come to mourn his daughter. More and more people joined in the queue, silently. They offered lilies in remembrance of the young women, as soft snow fell all around.


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