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A year on, there is time to mourn

FIVE bouquets of lilies and chrysanthemums were laid in Lhasa on Saturday for each of the five young women who died in the riots a year ago.

"We are here today, to bring you our best regards," said Tang Qingyan, manager of the Yishion casual wear outlet in downtown Lhasa. "May you be happy every day in heaven."

Yishion, one of the 908 shops torched by rioters on March 14, 2008, lost five employees - four Han nationals and one Tibetan. The women were aged between 19 and 24.

Exactly a year after the tragedy, Tang brought six employees to mourn the dead on Saturday on the exposed riverbed of the Lhasa River, whose water has, in the dry season, given way to a huge expanse of sand and cobblestones.

Silently, the group laid offerings on the ground: five candles, piles of "paper money," incense sticks, and two strings of firecrackers.

The Chinese traditionally burn "paper money" for the deceased.

"Dear sister, I've got your favorite sweater," Zeng Yao°?yao sobbed as she put a white sweater in the flames. "Please rest in peace."

Zeng, 20, said she dreamed of her cousin Yang Dongmei on Friday night. "I was so excited I ran up to embrace her. Then she said something about her sweater. I woke up in tears."

Of the five dead, Yang, Liu Yan and Chen Jia were still single. "According to the customs in our home province, Sichuan, the death of an unmarried daughter is considered evil. They could only be buried in an obscure graveyard far from their homes," said Tang.

The three girls' parents therefore agreed to have their ashes scattered into the Lhasa River. "It's a beautiful place, even better than our home province," Tang said.

Tsering Zhoi'gar, the only Tibetan girl, was taken to her hometown in Xigaze Prefecture for a traditional Tibetan sky burial.

Six saleswomen huddled together on the second floor of the store when rioters set the ground floor on fire. Zhoi'ma, 24, was the only one to survive.

Zhoi'ma refused to talk to the media and stayed away from the mourning. "She told me this morning she was going to mourn her friend Zhoi'gar in the Tibetan way, and at monasteries," said Tang.


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