Tue, Mar 03, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Tibetan monks’ Sichuan protest brings lockdown

AP AND AFP , BEIJING

Scores of Tibetan monks marched in protest in Sichuan Province over the banning of a prayer service, rights advocates said — the latest incident in an apparent increase in acts of defiance against Chinese rule ahead of sensitive anniversaries.

The demonstration began on Sunday when monks at the Sey monastery in the ethnically Tibetan county of Aba gathered to celebrate Monlam or Great Prayer Festival for the Tibetan New Year, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in an e-mail statement.

Tensions have been high in the area since last week, when a Tibetan Buddhist monk from the nearby Kirti monastery was reportedly shot after setting himself on fire to protest the prayer ban and restrictions on religion.

The presence of paramilitary police has noticeably increased in Tibetan communities in recent weeks ahead of the anniversary of last year’s deadly March 14 Tibetan riots and the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile.

When Chinese officials stopped Sunday’s ceremony, the monks left the prayer hall and marched toward the main town, shouting that they should be allowed to observe Monlam, the ICT said: “They walked for around five to 10 minutes ... before they were apprehended by officials who urged the monks not to proceed further for fear of a violent response from troops stationed in the area.”

Armed security officials soon arrived and the monks returned to their monastery, the group said.

“They are now surrounded by armed police personnel and are likely to be under lock-down after the protest,” it said.

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