Activists say video obtained by VOA of unrest at a Tibetan monastery where a monk burned himself to death refutes Chinese government claims that conditions at the facility are normal.
The video, which the rights group "International Campaign for Tibet" said was shot at great risk last month, shows Chinese security forces patrolling near the Kirti monastery, in an ethnically Tibetan area of China's Sichuan province. It also shows the young monk covered with burns and apparently in shock after self-immolating March 16 to protest China's policies on Tibet. The footage is posted on VOA's Tibetan service Website.
The video is thought to be the first containing images of the monk Phuntsog, whose protest took place on the third anniversary of major demonstrations against Chinese rule. At least 10 people were killed in the 2008 crackdown. 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.
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.
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.
Many Tibetans are angry about Chinese rule, and what they and their supporters say are Beijing's efforts to suppress Tibetan traditions and religion.
China has repeatedly denied such discrimination and points to laws it says help ethnic minorities, such as allowing families to have more than one child. Beijing also says its funding in Tibet has significantly improved living standards in the region in recent decades.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.