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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibetan Buddhist monks begin hunger strike

March 14, 2008

BEIJINGMarch 14, (AP): Buddhist monks in Tibet have begun a hunger
strike while two others attempted suicide amid Beijing's crackdown on
widespread protests against Chinese rule, a U.S-funded radio service
said Friday.

Tensions in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, have increased in recent days,
with thousands of soldiers and police surrounding the city's three
major monasteries, as the mountainous region became a focus for
protests ahead of this year's Olympic Games in Beijing.

Large demonstrations in Lhasa this week have drawn hundreds of monks
to protest Chinese rule.

Radio Free Asia reported that two monks from the Drepung monastery on
the outskirts of Lhasa were in critical condition after slashing their
wrists Thursday.

Monks at a second major monastery launched a hunger strike Thursday to
demand that armed police withdraw from the monastery grounds and
detained monks be released, RFA reported.

``The monks in Sera Monastery are observing a hunger strike inside the
premises,'' an unidentified source told RFA. ``They vowed not to eat
or sleep unless their demands are met.''

Large-scale demonstrations that began Monday have spread to a third
monastery, Ganden, in the Lhasa area, as well as the Reting monastery
north of the city, according to RFA and the London-based International
Campaign for Tibet.

The ICT said monks from the Ganden monastery mounted protests
Thursday, becoming the last of the three historically important
monasteries known as the ``Three Pillars of Tibet'' to join in the
demonstrations.

Troops and armed police in Lhasa have placed the three monasteries
under a virtual lockdown, according to the ICT and other witnesses.

Authorities in the Tibetan Autonomous Region have warned civil
servants to stay away from monasteries and convents, while inspections
are being conducted city wide to search for monks and nuns in hiding,
sources told the RFA.

It is extremely difficult to get independent verification of events in
Tibet since China maintains rigid control over the area. Foreigners
need special travel permits, and journalists are rarely granted access
except under highly controlled circumstances.

The protests by the Buddhist monks began Monday, the anniversary of
the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule.

Demonstrations have also spilled over into traditionally Tibetan areas
in the neighboring province of Qinghai. Monks at two other monasteries
_ the Lutsang monastery and Ditsa monastery _ also held small protests
but were not detained by police, according to Radio Free Asia.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang confirmed that
protests had taken place, but said the situation had ``stabilized.''
Qin accused the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, of
inciting separatism, though he provided no evidence.

Demonstrations were also held in northern India on Thursday, where
more than 100 Tibetan exiles were dragged away to prevent them from
continuing a march to their homeland to protest China's hosting of the
Olympic Games.

Clutching Tibetan flags and pictures of the Dalai Lama and Indian
pacifist Mohandas K. Gandhi, the protesters began a hunger strike
after being charged with threatening the ``peace and tranquility'' of
the region.

The protesters were ordered to appear before a magistrate late
Thursday and asked to sign a statement promising to refrain from
political activity ``now and in the future,'' Tenzin Palkyi, a march
coordinator, told The Associated Press. They refused, he said.

Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically a part of China. But many
Tibetans argue the Himalayan region was virtually independent for
centuries and accuse China of trying to crush Tibetan culture by
swamping it with Han people, the majority Chinese ethnic group.
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