'Tense' Situation at Monastery

Tibetan monks at a monastery besieged by Chinese police are running out of food.

2011-04-18
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kritimonastery-305.jpg Kirti Monastery in an undated photo.
Photo sent by a listener in Tibet

Tensions were running high on Monday at Sichuan's besieged Kirti monastery, where Chinese security forces are enforcing a lockdown in an attempt to get hundreds of monks to move out.

The siege of the monastery, which is home to some 2,500 Tibetan monks, was sparked by the death of a monk last month in a self-immolation protest against Beijing's rule.

"If any of the monks leave, they will be detained and returned [to the monastery]," said a Tibetan resident of Sichuan's Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous prefecture, who asked to remain anonymous.

"There were [some detained]," he added. "If any of those monks come out without an identity card, they get taken away."

"They want to take those monks away somewhere and have them study, but their relatives don't want them to go," he said.

He said monks inside Kirti were still very short of food.

Strong police presence

A number of monks had left the monastery by disguising themselves as ethnic Han Chinese, though some were discovered and detained by local police, the Tibetan resident said.

"They are being taken to a local jail, where they check to see if they had anything [to do with the protests]," he said. "They lock them up for many days."

A second Tibetan resident confirmed there was still a strong police presence around the town and monastery.

"Yes, [they are still surrounding it]," he said. "There are dozens of police on each street."

Repeated calls to the Ngaba police department seeking information on the situation were instantly disconnected on Monday.

But China's official Xinhua news agency reported Saturday that "life is normal at the Tibetan Buddhist monastery in southwest China."

Dharamsala-based monk and International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) member Tsoge said the exile community lacked concrete details about exactly how many people had been detained, and their identities.

"It is all hearsay at the moment," he said. "I heard one was detained on April 11, another on April 12."

Interrogation sessions

The siege of Kirti has drawn widespread condemnation and concern from overseas governments, human rights groups and Tibetans in exile.

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, appealed for calm last week, amid fears of a military intervention against the monks of Kirti, who have been defended and fed by local people outside the gates.

The Dharamsala-based Tibet Post newspaper quoted reports from Ngaba as saying that the stand-off between Chinese authorities and local Tibetans began after an official ordered local Tibetan officials and schoolteachers to attend "patriotic re-education" sessions targeting Kirti's monks.

A Tibetan named Tsering living in exile in Dharamsala said nearly 800 government employees were involved in the campaign.

"The monks were forced stand alone in the middle of the group and subjected to grueling interrogation sessions," he said.

Previous campaigns have required participants to denounce the Dalai Lama and pledge allegiance to China's ruling Communist Party.

Re-education 'essential'

Exile Tibetans with links to Kirti said local officials had visited the monastery and warned monks that they could face closure or destruction of the monastery.

"Since 2008, because of the actions and continuous illegal activity of monks from Kirti monastery, every community or society of Ngaba county has had no peace, and the disruptions have destroyed the security of the area," the Tibet Post quoted Chinese officials as saying.

Monks are currently being confined to their dormitories after 8 p.m., with beatings for any found breaking the curfew, the paper said.

It said around 300 local people had signed a petition vowing to protect the monks with their lives, with officials intervening to stop the signing process because of gathering crowds lining up to sign.

The Tibet Post said Chinese officials had visited Kirti again on Sunday, warning the monks that their behavior had "not improved."

"They added that the re-education was essential," the paper said.

International appeal

Tibet’s exile parliament has appealed directly to the United Nations for help in resolving the standoff.

The U.S. State Department said on Thursday that it had raised the issue of the Kirti siege with Chinese officials.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch also called on the Chinese government to protect its citizens’ rights of public expression, assembly, and religious belief.

Any use of violence against peaceful, unarmed demonstrators including those [at] the Kirti monastery would be "unjustifiable and completely unlawful," the group's Asia Advocacy Director Sophie Richardson said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Chakmo Tso for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated from Chinese by Luisetta Mudie and from Tibetan by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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