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Tibetan Monks Interrupt Journalists on Official Trip in Western China

A group of Tibetan Buddhist monks staged an emotional protest in front of a state-organized trip for journalists at a monastery in western China. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

The official group included journalists from Chinese and foreign news agencies. Reuters News Agency reporter Lucy Hornby was one eyewitness.

"A group of about 15 journalists was getting ready to go into the scripture hall of the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, when a group of about 15 young monks, carrying the Tibetan flag on two posts, burst into an open plaza, sort of hollering at first to grab everybody's attention," said Hornby.

Hornby says the monks appeared to be very emotional, with some of them near tears. She says they yelled slogans in Tibetan and then spoke to the reporters in Mandarin Chinese.

"When they saw that we could speak Chinese, a few of them said things like, 'The Dalai Lama needs to come back to Tibet," she added. 'We are not asking for independence, but we want human rights. We have no human rights now.'"

She says more monks joined the original group, but that, after about 10 minutes, older monks persuade everyone to disperse. She says Chinese officials did not attempt to interfere.

The Labrang Monastery is in Xiahe, a town in the western Chinese province, Gansu.

There was unrest in Xiahe following the violent riots in Lhasa last month. Hornby says one of the monks told her that Xiahe is now full of paramilitary police officers in plain clothes. She says she did not see any obvious sign of paramilitary forces in the city. But she says a "large number of men in street clothes" were constantly loitering around the journalist group.

This is the second group of journalists the Chinese government has taken to Tibet or to Tibetan areas in western China, following the Lhasa riots. Reporters escorted to the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, two weeks ago, also encountered emotional monks, who said they have no religious freedom.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, Tibet government chairman Qiangba Puncog said the recent violence in Lhasa will not stop the Olympic torch from passing through Tibet.

The Tibetan official warns that protesters who try to disrupt or undermine the torch relay, when it goes through Tibet or when climbers bring the flame up Mount Everest, will be dealt with severely.

Thousands of raucous protesters, angry about China's policies in Tibet and its human-rights record, have disrupted the torch relay's stops in London and Paris.