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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."

China says Tibetan "protest" was celebration

March 5, 2009

Reuters India
March 3, 2009

BEIJING (Reuters) -- Monks who gathered outside a Tibetan monastery on Sunday were celebrating their new administrator, not protesting, a top official was quoted saying on Tuesday, rejecting foreign reports of the incident.

Shi Jun, Communist Party boss in an ethnically Tibetan part of western Sichuan province, said there is complete religious freedom in his area and foreign news reports had misrepresented a simple celebration, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Having elected a lama to the post of a monastery administrator ... lamas with the Se Monastery were overjoyed and congratulated the electee on his success," Shi told Xinhua. Overseas Tibetans and some Buddhists call the monastery Sey.

Violent rioting rocked Aba Prefecture, where Shi holds office, last year and discontent appeared to resurface last week when a young monk set himself on fire in the street on Friday.

Two days later, lamas from a nearby monastery took to the streets, and Tibetan activist groups said they were calling for greater religious freedom after the local government banned them from holding an important prayer ceremony.

But Shi said monks were merely celebrating the selection of a new "tiebang lama", translated as "iron-rod lama, a monk-official who is in charge of monastery discipline.

"This was a normal religious activity but had been distorted as 'Tibetan lamas protest' by some foreign media with ulterior motives, we are indignant toward the distorted news reports based on hearsays and are disappointed at those western media," Xinhua quoted him saying, in an English-language report.

The head of the government for the same region, Wu Zegang, had earlier told Xinhua that he had not heard of any protests.

Over the Tibetan New Year in late February, many people skipped traditional celebrations like fireworks as a low-key way of marking the anniversary of a wave of unrest that spread across ethnic Tibetan areas of China last year.

Next month also marks the 50th anniversary of the exile of the Dalai Lama, following a failed insurrection against China, and there is intense security across Tibet and many neighbouring areas with ethnic Tibetans.
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