China has rejected criticism from a United Nations human rights panel about the status of more than 300 Tibetan monks arrested earlier this year in Sichuan province, saying the detained monks are undergoing "legal education" under the local authorities.
The U.N. Working group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Wednesday called on Beijing to disclose the fate of the monks, who were arrested in April by riot police and hauled away to unknown destinations. The panel accused Beijing of involvement in "enforced disappearances."
Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei rejected that characterization, saying there is "no such thing as enforced disappearance." He urged critics to "disregard bias" and adopt what he called a "fair perspective" on the issue. He did not offer details of the legal education at the Kirti monastery, but said it was "aimed at maintaining religious order" there.
The monks had been conducting weeks of protests at the monastery against China's policies in Tibet when they were seized April 21.
Video obtained and aired in April by VOA showed Chinese security forces patrolling near the monastery. It also showed video taken in March of a young monk hours before he died, covered with burns and apparently in shock after setting himself on fire to mark the third anniversary of a deadly Chinese crackdown in Tibet.
Days before the video aired, the U.S. State Department said China's use of force at the monastery was inconsistent with freedom of religion and human rights. The Chinese Foreign Ministry called the U.S. statement "irresponsible."
Many Tibetans are angry about Chinese rule, and what they say are Beijing's efforts to suppress local customs and religion. China has repeatedly denied such discrimination, arguing that its funding for Tibet has significantly improved living standards in the Himalyan territory.