by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 30, 2011
A Chinese court Tuesday sentenced two more Tibetan monks to jail time over a self-immolation protest at their monastery, as the United States voiced concern and urged Beijing to address grievances.
A monk at the flashpoint Kirti monastery in a mainly Tibetan area of Sichuan province named Phuntsog set himself on fire on March 16, the third anniversary of protests in Lhasa and neighboring areas against Chinese rule.
His death triggered a fresh clampdown by authorities nervous about renewed anti-government unrest.
A court condemned fellow monks Tsering Tenzin and Tenchum to 13 and 10 years in prison, respectively, for "intentional homicide" for having "plotted, instigated and assisted" in the death, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.
The verdicts came one day after a lama identified as Drongdru was sentenced to 11 years for the same offence. Xinhua said he hid the injured monk for 11 hours and ensured emergency treatment did not reach him.
Xinhua's account contradicts that of rights activists who have asserted that monks at the monastery rescued Phuntsog from the police, who beat the monk after extinguishing the flames.
Xinhua reported the new verdicts just as the United States criticized the first sentence. The State Department questioned whether China had followed either international or its own legal standards in the case.
"To resolve underlying grievances of China's Tibetan population, we urge Chinese leaders to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tension and to protect Tibetans' unique linguistic, cultural and religious identity," a State Department statement said.
Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they view as increasing domination by China's majority Han ethnic group and accuse the government of trying to dilute their predominantly Buddhist culture.
China, however, says that Tibetan living standards have improved markedly in recent decades, pointing to the billions of dollars it has spent on infrastructure and development projects.
Xinhua said that Tenchum and another monk had sent photos of Phuntsog overseas via the Internet three days before he burnt himself to death, "proving that the self-immolation was premeditated".
The state-run agency said that both Tsering Tenzin and Tenchum had confessed, and quoted what it said were monks who attended the trial condemning their actions.
"Monks can't kill. What they did was against the dharma and against the law," Xinhua quoted Yangdron Jamaseng, who it said was from Tsakhor monastery, as saying.
"Through the trial, I realised monks not only need to learn scriptures, but they also need to learn the law and obey the law."
Human rights activists doubted the allegations against the monks. Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch called Drongdru's conviction "purely political".
"It comes against a background of unprecedented persecution against the monastery of Kirti, from where the government has already taken into arbitrary detention dozens of monks," Bequelin told AFP.
Kirti monastery is in Sichuan's Aba prefecture, the scene of repeated anti-government protests. The monastery has remained extremely tense since security forces shot dead several protesters in March 2008, Bequelin said.
"Sentencing a monk who appears to have only attempted to protect Phuntsog after his solitary act only compounds the agony for Kirti monks," said Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet.
"By doing so the Chinese government aims to deflect attention from the real reasons for the self-immolation, which was an expression of anguish and sacrifice due to intense repression including new measures to suppress religious practice in Tibetan areas."
Calls by AFP to the Sichuan court went unanswered Tuesday.
Xinhua said that Phuntsog was just 16 years old at the time of his death, but the International Campaign for Tibet put the monk's age at 20.
Another monk killed himself by self-immolation in August at Sichuan's Nyitso monastery, drinking petrol before setting himself alight. Soldiers and police responded by surrounding the monastery.
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China urges end to 'cancer' of online rumours
Beijing (AFP) Aug 30, 2011
China's state news agency called on Internet sites Tuesday to stop the "cancer" of online rumours, in the latest sign of official unease over the rising popularity of social networking sites. The Xinhua news agency's call for an end to online "rumour-mongering" came days after a similar warning from a senior Communist Party official and reflects the government's growing disquiet at the rapid ... read more
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