(A young Tibetan monk walks around the courtyard at the Namo Monastery on the outskirts of Kangding in Sichuan province February 23, 2009/David Gray)
Security forces have detained about 300 Tibetan monks from a monastery in southwestern China for a month amid a crackdown sparked by a monk’s self-immolation, two exiled Tibetans and a prominent writer said, citing sources there. Tension in Aba prefecture, a heavily ethnic Tibetan part of Sichuan province, have risen to their highest levels since protests turned violent in March 2008, ahead of the Beijing Olympics, and were put down by police and paramilitary units.
The monks from Aba’s Kirti monastery, home to about 2,500 monks, were taken into custody on April 21 on military trucks, according to two exiled monks and a writer, who said their information was based on separate accounts from witnesses who live in Aba.
Kirti Rinpoche, the head of the Kirti monastery, told Reuters by telephone that it was the first time that Chinese security forces had seized such a large number of monks at a time, and that he had no information on their whereabouts.
“The situation is getting more and more repressive,” said Kirti Rinpoche, who is based in India’s Dharamsala, the seat of the exiled Tibetan government, and receives his information through a network of contacts inside Aba. “The restrictions imposed on the monastery and the monks are getting more intensified. It’s literally a suffocating situation where monks are not allowed to do anything at all.”
His account could not be independently verified as the government restricts visits by foreign reporters to restive Tibetan regions. Repeated calls to the Aba county government and public security bureau went unanswered. The Foreign Ministry said last month everything was “normal” at Kirti.