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China Trying 3 Monks in Self-Immolation Case


藏族喇嘛手持哈达给彭措送葬

China plans to try three Tibetan Buddhist monks for the death of a 16-year-old monk from their monastery who set himself on fire.

Tibetan rights groups say 16-year-old Rigzin Phuntsog set himself on fire in March to protest Chinese policies. China's state run news agency Xinhua said Friday the court in Aba in Sichuan province is charging two of his fellow monks for plotting and assisting in the self-immolation.

A third monk is being charged with moving or hiding the injured Phuntsog, preventing him from getting medical care, which lead to his death.

Xinhua says the trial for Tsering Tenzin, Tenchum and Drongdru will take place early next week.

All the monks were members of Kirti Monastery.

VOA's Tibetan Service obtained a video showing the badly burned monk Phuntsog, sitting in a car shortly after his act of protest.

In April, China said it had started conducting "legal education" on monks at the monastery because the monks there had disobeyed Tibetan Buddhism rules and disrupted local order.

Chinese officials had also put the monastery under guard. At the time, Tibetan exiles said that area residents had 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 in April 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."

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.

Last week, Tibetan exile groups said telephone and Internet access had been cut off in an area of western China where a 29-year-old Tibetan monk burned himself to death.

The groups said Tsewang Norbu drank gasoline and poured it over himself after shouting slogans and distributing leaflets calling for the return of the Dalai Lama. He then set himself on fire and died instantly.

Xinhua confirmed that a monk had immolated himself in a region of Sichuan province near Tibet, but did not say why.

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