Tibetan monastery sealed off after self-immolation

 Published: 3/16/2011 8:52:01 PM GMT
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BEIJING (AFP) – A Tibetan Buddhist monastery in southwestern China remained sealed off by police on Thursday, local residents said, after a young monk set himself on fire and died, triggering protests there.

Rights group said the 21-year-old monk's self-immolation and death Wednesday, the third anniversary of anti-government unrest in the area, sparked demonstrations near the Kirti monastery that were broken up by police.

"The crossroads to the monastery are blocked by police," an employee at a hotel near the monastery in Sichuan province told AFP.

"People are allowed to enter but the monks are not allowed to go out. Yesterday, the stores in this street were all closed," said the man, who declined to provide his name.

He added that he saw police beat two young men and a monk during the street protests.

A monk at the monastery confirmed the self-immolation, but said he could provide no further information as he was under the watchful eye of police.

"It's not convenient for me to explain this now. There are people beside me," he told AFP by phone.

According to the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), police extinguished the flames when the monk, identified by the name Phuntsog, set himself ablaze, but were then seen beating him before he died.

It said hundreds of monks and civilians then protested near the monastery, located in Aba county -- referred to as Ngaba in Tibetan -- although residents contacted by AFP were unable to confirm the demonstrations were that large.

Police have since detained an unknown number of monks, ICT added.

Resentment against Chinese rule runs deep in Tibetan regions of China.

Many Tibetans are angry about what they view as increasing domination by China's majority Han ethnicity, and accuse the government of trying to dilute their culture.

Tibetan resentment spilled over into violent demonstrations in March 2008 in Tibet's capital Lhasa, which then spread to neighbouring areas. Authorities have increased security in the region since then.

China says Tibetan living standards have improved markedly in recent decades, pointing to the billions of dollars in spending on infrastructure and development projects.

According to ICT, this marks the second time a Kirti monk has set himself on fire since authorities imposed a broad crackdown across Tibet and neighbouring regions of China with large Tibetan populations following the 2008 unrest.

Another monk set himself on fire in 2009 but survived, according to reports.

Calls to the Aba county government and police were not answered.

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