03/23/2009, 00.00
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A hundred Tibetan monks arrested after protesting death of another monk

by Nirmala Carvalho
Tashi Sangpo, 28, had been jailed for flying the Tibetan flag. He jumped into a river, possibly in order to escape torture by the Chinese police. Fears over the further reprisals that the authorities could carry out in a country kept far from the eyes of the world.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - The Chinese police have arrested a hundred Buddhist monks. This is the response from the authorities to the protest staged by about 2,000 monks and citizens on the evening of March 21, outside the police station in Lajong, in the county of Machu, in Tibetan Qinghai, over the death of the monk Tashi Sangpo, who may have committed suicide in order to escape torture.

Tashi, a 28-year-old monk from the monastery of Raja, was arrested by the police on March 20, together with six other monks. Eyewitnesses saw him run out of the police station and jump into the water of the Machu River (the Yellow River, for the Chinese). The strong current immediately swept him away, and he was never seen again.

According to the group Free Tibet, there has been great tension in the area after the monks of Raja raised a Tibetan national flag above the prayer hall on March 9. The following day, the police removed the flag by force, and on March 20 they arrested the seven monks, under the accusation of raising a "separatist" flag.

On March 21, 2,000 monks and citizens held a long protest outside of the police station, charging that Sangpo had died in order to escape beating and torture. They threw stones and roughed up at least one official. The agency Xinhua says that afterward, the police arrested at least 95 monks involved in the protest, and are looking for the others.

In spite of the heavy security measures put in place by Beijing for more than a month, tension and incidents are on the rise in the region. Local sources say that there are arrests every day, and that since February at least 60 people have been stopped in Tibetan Sichuan alone.

"The suicide on 21st March by the 28-year-old Tashi Sangpo, the Tibetan monk from the Ragya monastery," Urgen Tenzin, director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rigths and Democracy tells AsiaNews, "is indicative of the brutuality of the Chinese officials. Tashi Sango, who had unfurled the Tibetan flag on the Ragya monastery, was taken into the detention centre, the methods of torture inside detention centres defy any international norms and regulations of treatment of detainees.  We hope that the suicide of Tashi Sango, does not become just another static for the international communities, they have to realise the precariousness of the situation of the monks and nuns in the monastery as also the conditions  of our Tibetans inside Tibet."

Concern over the "serious consequences" that the demonstration could have for Tibetans in the county of Machu has been expressed by Stephanie Brigden, director of Free Tibet. "With Tibet under lockdown and sealed off from the eyes of the world, China will be able to act with complete impunity against the protesters in Machu county. Free Tibet is hugely concerned for the future safety of all Tibetans in the area following this latest protest."

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