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Friday, 26 August 2011

Chinese monks face murder charges over 'fire protest' death of 16-year-old

Authorities in south-western China will charge three Buddhist monks with murder over the death of a monk who set himself on fire in an alleged protest against Chinese government policies, China's official Xinhua news agency has reported.

Two of the monks, Tsering Tenzin and Tenchum, are accused of plotting, instigating, and assisting in the self-immolation of 16-year-old Rigzin Phuntsog on 16 March.

A third, Drongdru, is accused of moving and hiding the injured monk and preventing him from receiving emergency treatment for 11 hours, leading to his death, Xinhua said in a brief report.

The two-day trial will be held on Monday and Tuesday, the news agency said, citing a statement from the Maerkang County people's court, in Sichuan province.

The monastery at which the incident happened – Ngaba Kirti, also in Sichuan province – is being tightly guarded by security forces. The circumstances surrounding the monk's death remain unclear.

In June, China rejected pressure from a UN human rights panel to provide information about more than 300 of Kirti's monks whose whereabouts it said remained unknown since a raid on the monastery in April.

The Foreign Ministry said only that monks were undergoing "legal education" – a reference to compulsory political lectures on the basics of the Chinese constitution, criminal law and rules and regulations on religious affairs.

Tibetan monks are often loyal to the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, who is reviled by Beijing.

As custodians of Tibet's Buddhist culture, they tend to be especially concerned about China's tight controls over monasteries, which take time away from religious study and practice.


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