Tibetan witnesses have reported that the Chinese government's so-called "patriotic education" campaign in Buddhist monasteries has prompted fresh protests in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
Witnesses say at least eight people (- including one monk -) were killed late Thursday when Chinese paramilitary police (People's Armed Police) fired on several hundred monks and villagers.
The crowd was demanding the release of monks from the Tongkor Monastery who were detained by police the previous day. The monks reportedly refused to denounce the Dalai Lama and protested when officials destroyed portraits of the exiled spiritual figure.
China's official Xinhua news agency confirmed Friday that an incident had taken place and said police were forced to fire warning shots to stop violent riots outside government offices in (Dongwu Township) Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) (Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture). Xinhua said an official was seriously injured but did not provide details of fatalities among protesters.
In separate news, Tibetan exiles reported that two Tibetan monks in nearby Sichuan province have committed suicide due to the Chinese crackdown.
The India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy says one of the monks was at Kirti Monastery in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) prefecture, a site of recent unrest. TCHRD says the monk, Lobsang Jinpa, left a suicide note claiming sole responsibility for organizing monk-led protests, concealing bodies of dead protesters from police, and providing information to groups overseas.
Chinese authorities launched a fresh campaign to stamp out separatism in Tibetan monasteries after the monks participated in protests that began in Lhasa on March 10th and spread to Tibetan areas in nearby provinces.
Witnesses say officials force monks to prove their loyalty to the Chinese government by signing statements condemning the Dalai Lama. Most Tibetans revere the Dalai Lama as an important religious figure, but Beijing blames him for orchestrating unrest in Tibet in an attempt to split the region from China.
The Dalai Lama has denied involvement and repeated his willingness to negotiate with the Chinese government over full autonomy for the region as a part of China.
Chinese authorities say about 20 people died in the Lhasa violence, and blame Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Tibet's government in exile rejects the charge, and says some 140 people have died in unrest in Tibet and other areas.