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China jails more Tibetan monks, US concerned
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 30, 2011

US 'concerned' about Tibetan monk sentence
Washington (AFP) Aug 30, 2011 - The United States on Tuesday voiced concern about China's 11-year sentence to a Tibetan lama over a young monk's self-immolation and urged Beijing to address grievances in the region.

The State Department in a statement questioned whether China followed either international or its own legal standards when the court handed down the sentence, which followed Tibetan protests against Beijing's rule.

The State Department said it was "concerned" by the 11-year sentence handed down to a monk named Drongdru, who was charged with "intentional homicide" for allegedly preventing the wounded monk from getting medical treatment.

"We urge the Chinese government to ensure transparency and to uphold the procedural protections and rights to which Chinese citizens are entitled under China's Constitution and laws and under international standards," the statement said.

"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," it said.

Kirti monastery, in a largely Tibetan area of southwestern Sichuan province, has been tense since 2008 when security forces sealed off the monks in an effort to stop protests across the region against Chinese rule.

The monk, Phuntsog, died in a hospital after setting himself on fire on March 16, triggering fresh protests and a renewed clampdown.

The Chinese court's verdict contradicted earlier assertions by rights groups that monks at the Kirti monastery had rescued Phuntsog from police who began to beat him after extinguishing the flames.

Phuntsog was the second Tibetan monk to kill himself by setting himself on fire in recent months. China's state-run Xinhua news agency said Phuntsog was 16, but the International Campaign for Tibet put the monk's age at 20.

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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Dalai Lama applies for S.African visa for Tutu birthday
Cape Town (AFP) Aug 30, 2011 - The Dalai Lama, previously barred from South Africa, has applied for a visa after activist Desmond Tutu invited him to his 80th birthday celebrations, an official said Tuesday.

The anti-apartheid hero has urged the government to grant a visa to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who was denied entry in 2009 to ensure ties with key trade partner China were not jeopardised.

"We have confirmed receipt of the visa application by the Dalai Lama through our mission in New Delhi, India," home affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told AFP, saying the request was received Monday.

"However, because this is not a mere administrative issue but a matter that has political and diplomatic implications, we are deferring to our department of International Relations and Cooperation for advice."

The Dalai Lama is due to give a lecture as part of events to celebrate Tutu's birthday on October 7.

"The following day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture in Cape Town. This event will not be open to the public," said Tutu's youngest daughter Mpho Tutu.

Tutu's birthday will also include a book launch on October 6 and a public church service followed by an invite-only picnic party on his actual birthday.

The popular and outspoken activist, who is often seen as South Africa's moral compass, had a gift for making people "feel touched and important in a very special, personal way", said his daughter.

"It is a milestone birthday, and as a family we will celebrate the father we love," she added in a statement on behalf of the family.

"We recognise that he is a public figure and a global icon, but he is also a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother and an uncle. We know him simply as 'daddy', his grandchildren's 'khulu'. We want to celebrate our dad."

In 2009, Tutu criticised the decision to bar entry to his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate to attend a peace conference in Johannesburg, with the government saying that it did not want to jeopardise relations with China.

Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane later said that the Dalai Lama was free to visit the country and that the decision had been poorly communicated.

The Dalai Lama, who in July said he hoped to go to South Africa for Tutu's birthday, has lived in exile in India since 1959 when he fled an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

He says he wants better treatment for Tibetans and accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a "splittist" and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders.

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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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