- Mon, 04/18/2011 - 12:00
Tania Branigan in Beijing
Monday 18 April 2011 11.04 BST
Chinese state media have confirmed reports of clashes between monks and police at a Tibetan monastery in Sichuan province, but deny it has been blockaded.
The Global Times said "Chinese police intervened to control lamas that had stirred up trouble" at Kirti monastery in Aba county, western China.
Tibetan exiles said armed police surrounded the complex last Tuesday and refused to allow monks to enter or leave. The Dalai Lama warned late last week that the situation could turn "explosive".
An article released by the Xinhua state news agency on its news wire this weekend – but not, apparently, on its website – said believers and vehicles were freely entering and monks could be seen outside.
The report, headlined "Life normal in Tibetan Buddhist monastery in south-west China", quoted a member of Kirti's management saying it had "long ago formed a joint patrol team [with police] to prevent unspecified people from entering". He added that "there couldn't be any beatings" as staff at the entrance were very friendly.
The International Campaign for Tibet said hundreds of residents gathered outside Kirti last Tuesday fearing authorities would forcibly remove monks for a "patriotic education" campaign after the self-immolation of a young lama. Citing exile sources, it alleged that security forces beat protesters and unleashed dogs on the crowd as they forced their way through to the monastery, surrounding it and preventing up to 2,500 monks from leaving. The Guardian has been unable to verify the claims independently.
Exiles claimed that as of Sunday the complex had been blockaded and up to 800 officials had been carrying out the re-education campaign there.
The religious affairs bureau in Aba, known to Tibetans as Ngaba, did not respond to queries. Last year the region's authorities issued a notice pledging to "promote patriotic education in monasteries [and] reinforce management of religious affairs in accordance with the law".
The US expressed concern about the situation last week, with state department spokesman Mark Toner telling a regular briefing: "We have seen that Chinese security forces have cordoned off the Kirti monastery ... They've also imposed onerous restrictions on the monks and the general public, and we believe these are inconsistent with internationally recognised principles of religious freedom and human rights."
The Global Times commentary attacked the "Dalai clique" and the west for such remarks, adding: "The so-called religious freedom and human rights are nothing but slogans to deceive people in Tibet and take over global opinion."
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to split Tibet from the rest of China, while the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader says he seeks only meaningful autonomy. Aba is one of many areas that lies outside Tibet but has a large Tibetan population.
The Global Times said: "No western country has supported Tibet independence in public and [they] merely seek for Tibet to be in chaos, so that China can be contained. Every problem in Tibet is caused by a few lamas, who have betrayed and stained the Buddhist concept of peace. However, they seem to have forgotten that they are still citizens of the People's Republic of China. The law will not make concessions to them."