BEIJING, Mar 17 – A Ticapitalfmnewn 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 groups said the monk\’s self-immolation on Wednesday — the third anniversary of anti-government unrest in the area — and subsequent death sparked demonstrations near the Kirti monastery that were broken up by police.
The official Xinhua news agency, quoting a local government spokesman, later confirmed the self-immolation and death of the monk, identified as Phuntsog and said to be 24 years old. Rights groups put his age at 21.
"The crossroads to the monastery (is) 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 said there were police outside the building, adding he could provide no further information as he was under the watchful eye of authorities.
"It\’s not convenient for me to explain this now. There are people beside me," he told AFP by phone.
The government spokesman blamed the death of the monk on treatment delays, saying police had rushed him to hospital but that other monks had forcibly taken him away and hidden him in the monastery before he died, Xinhua said.
But the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said the monks only took his dead body back to the monastery, as they did not want it to be passed on to Chinese authorities.
It said police extinguished the flames when the monk set himself ablaze, and were then seen beating him before he died.
Hundreds of monks and civilians then protested near the monastery, located in Aba county, referred to as Ngaba in Ticapitalfmnewn, it added, although residents contacted by AFP were unable to confirm the demonstrations were that large.
Police have since detained an unknown number of monks, according to the ICT.
Resentment against Chinese rule runs deep in Ticapitalfmnewn regions of China.
Many Ticapitalfmnewns 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.
Ticapitalfmnewn 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 Ticapitalfmnewn 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 Ticapitalfmnewn 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.