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Tibetan Government in Exile 'Deeply Concerned' About China Crackdown on Monastery

Tibetan students pray outside Rajghat, the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, during a march demanding immediate withdrawal of Chinese troops from Kirti Monastery in Tibet, in New Delhi, India, April 19, 2011

The cabinet of the Tibetan government in exile says it is "deeply concerned" about China's security clampdown at a large Tibetan Buddhist monastery, expressing fears the situation could grow into "genocide."

In a statement Saturday, the Kashag of the Central Tibetan Administration said Chinese police "severely" beat Tibetans gathered at the Kirti monastery in an ethnically Tibetan area of Sichuan province on Thursday night. The statement says the group had been trying to prevent police from taking away about 300 monks in military trucks.

The cabinet says most of the Tibetans gathered were elderly people, and that two of them died after being beaten.

The statement called on the international community to persuade China not to use force at the monastery and to release the monks it has detained.

The Tibetan government also asked for the issue to be raised during the United States' and China's annual meeting on human rights next week.

The U.S. State Department said last week that China's use of force at the monastery to block demonstrations by monks was inconsistent with freedom of religion and human rights. China's Foreign Ministry has said conditions at the facility are normal and called the U.S. remarks "irresponsible."

The monastery has been under guard since last month, when a young monk set himself on fire to protest China's policies on Tibet.

Foreign journalists are rarely allowed to enter Tibetan areas, so the varying accounts of the situation at the monastery can not be independently verified.

Many Tibetans are angry about Chinese rule and what they say are Beijing's efforts to suppress Tibetan traditions and religion. In 2008, Tibet was rocked by violent protests, and the government ramped up security in the region.

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 of development projects has significantly improved Tibetan living standards in recent decades.