Tibetans Defend Kirti Monastery

A clash with Chinese security forces follows a rumored attempt to remove and jail dissident monks.
2011-04-12
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kritimonastery-305.jpg
Kirti Monastery in an undated photo.
Photo sent by a listener in Tibet

Tibetans have resisted what they believed to be an attempt by Chinese security forces to remove monks from a restive monastery in western China's Sichuan province and jail them in another location, exiled Tibetan sources said.

Security has been tight around Kirti monastery in Sichuan's Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture after one of its monks died on March 17 after setting himself on fire in protest at Chinese rule in Tibet.

"On April 11, members of the public gathered outside Kirti monastery," said Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe, Tibetan monks living in India and citing sources in the region.

When a large group of Chinese People's Armed Police approached the monastery at around noon, the Tibetans blocked the entrance, Tsering and Yeshe said.

"The armed police attacked the Tibetans, beating many severely, and trained dogs were let loose on the crowd. Several Tibetans were bitten," they said.

Monks from the monastery tried to come out in support of their defenders, but were blocked by barbed-wire fencing and armed guards stationed at the gates, Tsering and Yeshe added.

Officials deny knowledge

Local Tibetans believed that the government's plan had been to take the monks away in groups of ten and put them in prison on the pretext of taking them for "political re-education," they said.

"When they saw [the Chinese forces] arrive, they assumed it was for this purpose, and risked their lives by standing in the way," they said.

Following a continuing standoff between Chinese security forces and the crowd, private vehicles were ordered off the roads, and area schoolchildren were confined to their schools, Tsering and Yeshe said.

Reached for comment, Chinese security officials in the area denied knowledge of the clash or refused to respond to reporters' questions.

A staff member of the Ngaba Prefecture Public Security Bureau said no Tibetans had been detained and that no clashes had taken place.

"No such thing happened. We are keeping the peace very well here. Who told you that? Everything is fine here ... This didn't happen."

But a desk clerk at a Tibetan hotel nearby the monastery said by telephone that police were watching the site and had erected barricades around it.

"Yes, they are patrolling. No one is allowed to enter," she said.

When asked if any clashes had occurred, the clerk responded, "Now, it's relatively calm."

Tightened security

"Since April 9, there has been an increase in the number of security forces around the Kirti monastery," said a monk from Kirti's sister monastery in northern India.

"Eight hundred troops arrived and are currently surrounding and guarding the monastery," said the monk, identified as Tsoge. "All the roads around it have been sealed off," he said.

"Now, the monks inside are faced with the problem of a food shortage," Tsoge said. "This has been going on for several days now."

He said that the Kirti monks live mostly on a diet of Tibetan barley bread and fried noodles, and that their supplies are now running out.

"They won't let local people bring them in," Tsoge said.

Separately, a second exile Tibetan source confirmed the "tense situation" at the monastery.

"More than 2,500 monks at Kirti monastery are detained inside the premises, with their movements blocked," said Jampel Monlam, deputy director of the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. "They are facing shortages of food."

"We are extremely concerned for the fate of the monks," he said.

Nomads protest

Meanwhile, in Dzamthang (in Chinese, Rangtang) county, also in the Ngaba prefecture, nomads staged a protest following the death in police custody of a Tibetan man.

"Hundreds of people went to the police station, and stayed there morning and night," a Tibetan source said. "They lit fires and cooked food, and slept there."

"In the end the state agreed to pay 700,000 yuan (U.S. $107,000) in compensation, and they left," he said. "No one was detained and there weren't any clashes. They left as soon as the matter was settled."

Exiled Tibetan sources identified the Tibetan as a nomad called Wamaduo.

An employee who answered the phone at a guesthouse in Dzamthang confirmed that nomads had surrounded the local police station in a recent protest.

Reported by RFA's Tibetan service, by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translations by Karma Dorjee and Luisetta Mudie
. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie and Richard Finney.

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