China says its officials are conducting "legal education" on monks at a Tibetan monastery where a young monk set himself on fire to protest Chinese policies last month.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing Tuesday that a small number of monks have disobeyed Tibetan Buddhism rules and disrupted local order at the Kirti Monastery in an ethnic Tibetan area of Sichuan province.
He said the legal education was being conducted out of a need for the "correct implementation of religious freedom promises" and to strengthen the administration of religious affairs.
The monastery has been under guard since last month, when a 20-year-old monk named Phuntsog set himself on fire, dying later at a hospital. Last week, Tibetan exiles reported that area residents tried to block security forces from entering the monastery, and that police set attack dogs on the crowd and beat people.
The U.S. State Department said that China's actions were inconsistent with freedom of religion and human rights. China retorted that the United States should "respect facts" and stop making "irresponsible remarks."
The Chinese government also claimed last week that conditions at the monastery are normal. However a video obtained by VOA showed Chinese security forces patrolling near the monastery. It also showed the young monk covered with burns and apparently in shock before he died of his injuries.
Foreign journalists are rarely allowed to enter Tibetan areas, making it difficult to verify the claims of either the Tibetan exiles or the Chinese authorities.