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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Chinese forces surround Tibetan monastery after protest: activists

March 3, 2009

Agence France-Presse
March 2, 2009

BEIJING (AFP) -- Security forces have surrounded a Tibetan monastery in a tense region of southwest China after monks there demonstrated against Chinese
repression, activist groups said Monday.

They said Sunday's demonstration occurred in the same area of Sichuan province's Aba prefecture where a monk set himself alight last week to protest against
China's 58-year rule of the Himalayan region.

Tensions are high in Tibetan-populated areas ahead of the 50th anniversary on March 10 of a failed uprising against Chinese rule that led to revered spiritual leader
the Dalai Lama fleeing into exile.

Several hundred monks at the Sey monastery in Aba staged the protest after Chinese officials banned prayers during a traditional Buddhist festival, the US-based
International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said, citing sources there.

"Several hundred monks marched from the monastery after officials banned them from praying, calling to be allowed to celebrate the Monlam prayer festival and for
authorities to release all Tibetan prisoners," the group said.

It said armed police had surrounded the monastery after the monks returned there and it was now likely to be under a lockdown, although it had no more
information.

A woman resident reached by phone by AFP confirmed there was a protest.

"Yes, monks protested yesterday morning. I don't know what they wanted," she said, declining further comment.

Several other locals reached by phone refused to comment when asked about the issue. Activist groups have reported that residents in Tibetan areas have been
threatened with detention if they talk to foreign reporters.

The New York-based Students for a Free Tibet also reported on Sunday's rally, saying that between 300 and 400 soldiers tried to stop the protest as the monks
marched out of the monastery.

"The monastery is now sealed and there is a heavy military presence outside the main road," the group said in a statement.

Government officials and police in Abe contacted by AFP on Monday said they did not know of Sunday's reported protest.

The Dalai Lama, other exiles and activist groups have reported a massive security build-up in Tibet and the neighbouring areas of western China with Tibetan
populations, such as Aba, ahead of the uprising anniversary.

They have spoken of high tensions in those areas, with the Dalai Lama accusing Chinese authorities of trying to provoke Tibetans into demonstrating to justify a huge
crackdown.

Tibetans took to the streets on March 14 last year, after four days of peaceful protests to mark the 49th anniversary of the uprising.

Tibet's government-in-exile says the government crackdown following last year's unrest left 200 Tibetans dead.

China denies this but has reported that police killed one "insurgent" and blamed Tibetan "rioters" for 21 deaths.

Aba has long been a particularly sensitive area and security forces opened fire on protesters there during last year's unrest, in violence that activists said left at least
seven Tibetans dead.

On Friday last week, a monk set himself on fire near the Kirti monastery, several kilometres (miles) from the Sey monastery.

Chinese authorities on Saturday confirmed a man had set himself alight but did not acknowledge claims by activist groups that police shot the monk.

Getting independent information from Aba and other Tibetan areas is extremely difficult.

Travel agencies have told AFP foreign tourists have been banned from visiting Tibet during March, while the international media remain barred from travelling to the
Himalayan region independently.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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