Tibetan leader seeks release of 400 monks in China

AP News
Posted: Apr 29, 2011 6:18 AM
Tibetan leader seeks release of 400 monks in China

A Tibetan religious leader on Friday asked Chinese authorities to immediately release nearly 400 monks detained from the blockaded Kirti monastery in Sichuan province where two people died in a clash with police.

Losang Tenzin Jigme, head lama of the Kirti monastery in Tibet and Dharmsala, said Chinese forces were not allowing relatives to meet more than 2,000 monks living in the monastery.

The monastery has been completely surrounded since March 16 by Chinese armed forces, who at one point prevented food and other supplies from entering the compound.

The tensions are the latest troubles at Kirti monastery, where a 21-year-old monk set himself on fire last month in protest against Chinese rule.

The U.S.-based International Campaign for Tibet said two villagers trying to block the monks' removal by Chinese security forces were killed last week.

However, a Chinese government statement released Thursday said reports on two Tibetans killed by police in the Sichuan Province were "purely fictitious." It said an elderly woman died of illness on April 16.

The statement also rejected claims by Tibetan leaders that nearly 700 Chinese officials were trying to indoctrinate the monks at the Kirti monastery.

All monks at the monastery were learning the basics of the Chinese constitution, criminal law and regulations on religious affairs, the statement said.

The government's decision to enforce legal education at the monastery followed the tragic death of Rigzin Phuntsog, a 16-year-old Kirti monk who set himself on fire on March 16.

Early this month, the Dalai Lama asked the international community to persuade the Chinese leadership to exercise restraint in handling the latest troubles at the monastery.

The situation if allowed to go on may become explosive with catastrophic consequences for the Tibetans in the region, the Dalai Lama said.

The Tibetan spiritual leader has been living in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala, the seat of his government-in-exile, since he fled Tibet amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1958.