Security has been tightened in Tibetan regions of western China following the detention of a monk at Labrang monastery and the funeral of another monk who set fire to himself to protest Chinese rule, according to Tibetan sources.
More than 2,000 people turned out on Friday in the Ngaba prefecture of Sichuan province for the funeral of 21-year-old Lobsang Phuntsog, India-based Tibetan monks Tsering and Yeshe said, citing sources in the region.
Phuntsog died after setting himself on fire in the street and shouting slogans opposing Chinese rule in Tibet.
Chinese police kicked and beat him while extinguishing the flames, sparking an angry protest by monks and local Tibetans, witnesses said.
Ngaba's Kirti monastery, in which Phuntsog had been a monk, cremated his body Friday morning with prayers and chanting, although the family had wanted the rites to be held on Saturday according to local astrological custom.
"Over 2,000 monks and laypeople joined the funeral procession, and they were crying and praying," Tsering and Yeshe said.
They added that mourners could sense the presence of Chinese security personnel and police in civilian dress among them as they marched, while uniformed armed police patrolled at a distance.
"At present the situation is very tense," they said.
Local residents confirmed their reports.
"Mild confrontations" had already taken place between local Tibetans and police, one source said, adding that anyone leaving their house had to bring identity papers with them.
A second resident said that armed police had sealed Kirti monastery off from visitors. "You can only look out from the gates," the resident said. "They are stopping the monks from coming out."
Local Tibetans warned
Meanwhile, on March 16, Chinese police detained a monk at Labrang monastery in China's western Gansu province, a monastery source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The monk, identified as Luchoepa Tenzin Gyatso, had formerly been imprisoned for several months after taking part in a peaceful protest in 2008.
He had also recently urged local Tibetans to observe the traditional Tibetan New Year, Losar, instead of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
"Residents heard the sirens of police vehicles and saw many police moving toward Tenzin Gyatso's room at around 8:00 p.m.," the source said.
On that same day, he said, local officials and Chinese police had gone door-to-door at Labrang and warned everyone not to set off firecrackers on March 20, the date of elections for Tibet's India-based government-in-exile.
"They also ransacked each and every room and confiscated TV dishes and antennas," he continued. "The current situation in Labrang is very tense, and monks and laymen at Labrang are under strict surveillance by Chinese security forces."
He added that Tibetans in the Labrang area are paying close attention to the Sunday vote, which will elect a prime minister, or Kalon Tripa, and parliamentarians for the exile government.
Reported for RFA's Tibetan service by Rigdhen Dolma and Chakmo Tso with translations by Rigdhen Dolma, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie and Richard Finney, with translations by Luisetta Mudie.