Chinese authorities in southwestern Sichuan province have detained and tortured Tibetan monks amid a siege of a major monastery there, according to exile sources.
Tensions have been running high at the besieged monastery of Kirti in Sichuan's Ngaba prefecture, which is home to some 2,500 Tibetan monks who say they are now running out of food.
The siege of the monastery was sparked by the death of a monk last month in a self-immolation protest against Beijing's rule. A number of detentions, beatings, and attacks on unarmed local people with trained police dogs have been reported since.
Exile sources now say that Chinese authorities are increasing the pressure with a concerted political "re-education" campaign inside the monastery, and the detention and torture of Kirti monks.
"A group of monks who were taken away two weeks ago were released, but their physical condition is extremely unstable," said Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe, monks at Kirti's sister monastery in exile in India.
"They were severely beaten and assaulted, and exposed to extreme heat radiation for a long period of time," he said. "Their hands and legs were tied to electric poles, and they were then tortured with electric batons."
Chinese security forces are enforcing a lockdown in an attempt to get hundreds of monks to move out or submit to the government's re-education program, sparking protests and clashes with local people seeking to protect the monks.
"The intensity of torture was so severe that the pain and agony felt by the monks were the same as if they were being skinned alive. Many of them fainted under the torture and violence," said Tsering and Yeshe, whose monastery is in regular contact with monks and residents of Ngaba.
Monks tied to trees
They said the government had drafted in hundreds of officials from neighboring counties to conduct a re-education campaign in the monastery.
Such campaigns usually involve renouncing allegiance to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is widely revered among Tibetans.
“Over 800 government staff from Wenchuan, Maoxian, Maekang, Ruanggai, and Heishui counties were assigned to Kirti monastery, and the re-education campaign is still being conducted on the monks," Tsering and Yeshe said.
"The morning sessions are conducted in groups in the courtyards of monastery, while the evening sessions are forced on the monks in their individual rooms," they said.
Tsering said some monks were tied to trees if they failed to respond "correctly" to interrogations by officials and armed police officers.
The authorities also tried to keep secret the exact nature of the re-education campaign, they added.
"The monks were warned that they cannot describe the proceedings of the re-education sessions with others, not even their parents," Tsering and Yeshe said.
"The officials warned the monks to behave appropriately ... as the officials claimed the authority and power to 'wipe them out from the roots'.”
They said the campaign was also being extended to local herding communities, who have clashed with police in an attempt to defend the Kirti monks from relocation.
"On April 17, many armed soldiers came to the nomadic camps in Ngaba areas and forced them to sign some documents," Tsering and Yeshe said.
"Since most of them are illiterate, they did not know what they were signing for in the documents," they added.
One monk from Kirti, a 24-year-old also named Tsering, was reported missing, believed detained, exile sources said.
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.
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.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.