Thursday, 29 September 2011

Steer clear of Tibet, China warns US

Updated at: 0536 PST,  Thursday, September 29, 2011
Steer clear of Tibet, China warns US BEIJING: China on Wednesday warned the United States against interfering in its affairs after two Buddhist monks set themselves on fire and the US called for Beijing to respect the rights of Tibetans.

The US State Department said Tuesday it was "seriously concerned" by attempts by two monks at the Kirti monastery in southwest China's Sichuan province to burn themselves to death in an apparent call for religious freedom.

It urged Beijing to allow journalists and diplomats to observe the situation in Sichuan's Aba county, home to the Kirti monastery, which has seen a string of protests and self-immolations by monks.

"We oppose any country or any person using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China's internal affairs and impairing China's social stability and ethnic unity," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told journalists.


"The Chinese government protects the lawful rights and interests of ethnic minorities," he said, responding to a question on the State Department's call.

People living near the Kirti monastery said roads were blocked and access to the Internet cut off after the latest protest by two young monks, both of whom were reported to have survived.

The two young monks reportedly cried out "long live the Dalai Lama" as they set themselves on fire, referring to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader -- revered by many Tibetans but criticised by Beijing as a "splittist."

One of them was believed to be the brother of Phuntsog, a young Kirti monk whose self-immolation in March led to protests and a major security crackdown in the area.

The International Campaign for Tibet, a rights group, said monks from the monastery had suffered torture, pointing out that the Buddhist faith prohibits suicide and saying the self-immolations were "a measure of the anguish" they felt.

Many Tibetans in China are angry about perceived religious repression, erosion of their culture, and also what they view as increasing domination by the country's majority Han ethnic group.

China, however, says that Tibetan living standards have improved markedly with billions in Chinese investment.

"In light of the continuing underlying grievances of China's Tibetan population, we again urge Chinese leaders to respect the rights of Tibetans," the State Department said.

It also called for Beijing "to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tension, and to protect Tibetans' unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity." (AFP)
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