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Army surrounds China monastery after monk's death

16 august 2011, 13:52
0
A woman prays at the YongHeGong Lama Temple. ©AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON
A woman prays at the YongHeGong Lama Temple. ©AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON
Soldiers and police on Tuesday surrounded a monastery in southwest China where a Tibetan monk set himself on fire and died, cutting off power, water and food to around 100 people inside, AFP reports citing witnesses.

Foreigners were barred from travelling to the area in Sichuan province's Daofu county, near Tibet, where the 29-year-old set himself on fire on Monday in an apparent protest, local people told AFP by telephone.

"There are at least 1,000 soldiers and police guarding the monastery and about 100 monks inside," one monk said from inside the monastery.

"The power and water have been cut off for days, and we have no food supplies coming in."

The London-based Free Tibet rights group said the monk, Tsewang Norbu from the Nyitso monastery, set himself on fire after drinking petrol and spraying himself with the flammable liquid.

He was heard calling out "We Tibetan people want freedom", "Long live the Dalai Lama", and "Let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet" before he died, the group said.

Sichuan has a large population of ethnic Tibetans, many of whom object to what they say is repressive Chinese rule -- a claim Beijing denies. The region has experienced several bouts of unrest over the past few years.

It was the second reported self-immolation this year in this area of Sichuan, where many monks revere the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, who fled China in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

In March, a young monk called Phuntsog set himself on fire and died near Kirti Monastery in Aba county, around 200 kilometres (124 miles) from Daofu, in apparent protest against the government.

Hotel and restaurant owners in Daofu said there was a heavy army and police presence in the city, and they were not accepting foreigners.

"There are many soldiers and police on the streets, they have surrounded the monastery and the government headquarters," said a hotel owner, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A restaurant owner said the police and army had set up roadblocks around the county and were checking every vehicle that approached the government headquarters and the monastery.

An official at the Daofu government office refused to comment.

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