Activists say video obtained by Voice of America of unrest at a Tibetan monastery where a young monk burned himself to death refutes Chinese government's assertions that the situation is “normal” and “harmonious”.
The video shows Chinese security forces patrolling near the Kirti monastery, in an ethnically Tibetan area of China's Sichuan province. It documents a heavy police crackdown in the town of Ngaba and around the entrance to the Kirti monastery, with officers leading detainees away and blocking streets. It also shows a young monk covered with burns and apparently in shock after self-immolating March 16 to protest China's policies on Tibet.
The video is thought to be the first containing images of Phuntsog, a 20 year-old monk of Kirti monastery who died recently after setting himself on fire to protest Chinese policies. His protest took place on the third-year anniversary of major demonstrations against Chinese rule
The footage also shows a heavily-fortified police checkpoint and a mass gathering of monks chanting prayers and draping blessing scarves [Khatags] on the body of the deceased monk ahead of his March 19 cremation.
VOA Tibetan Service Managing Editor Losang Gyatso says the video, “contradicts statements made by China’s foreign ministry, that police in Sichuan province immediately took the young monk to a hospital for treatment after he set himself on fire.”
Tibetan rights groups reported at the time of the March 16 incident that witnesses saw police severely beat the monk as they put out the flames.
The exiled head Lama of the Kirti monastery, Kirti Rinpoche, told VOA Tibetan, "The videos show that the crackdown on Ngaba and Kirti Monastery is not just hearsay, but a reality. The Chinese claims that everything is normal go against what we see here. If things have indeed returned to normal today, then I call on the authorities to allow journalists to visit and report on the conditions.”
Last week, the U.S. State Department said China's use of force at the monastery to block demonstrations by protesting monks was inconsistent with freedom of religion and human rights. The Chinese Foreign Ministry later called the U.S. accusations "irresponsible," and said supplies are allowed to enter the compound. Chinese officials did not immediately comment on the video tape.
The U.S. accusation was made after Tibetan exiles reported that residents near the monastery tried to block security forces from entering the facility and that police responded by beating protesters and unleashing attack dogs on the crowd. Foreign journalists are rarely allowed to enter Tibetan areas, so neither the exiles' allegations nor Beijing's version of events can be verified.