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25thapril201108188998Dharamshala: - A media briefing was held at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamshala on April 25, regarding China's continuing crackdown on the monks of Kirti Monastery and Tibetans living in Ngaba, Amdo in Eastern Tibet.

"The Chinese authorities have launched a series of false and groundless allegations about the circumstances of the death of the young monk named Phuntsok, who self immolated on March 16, as well as on the state of affairs at the Kirti monastery in general," said Ven. Lobsang Yeshi, one of two media coordinators of the Kirti monastery in exile who has responded to the recent reports made by the state controlled Chinese media 'Xinhua'.

"Chinese authorities are trying to blame the monks, who took away Phuntsok from the hands of the police at the time of the self immolation, for being his accomplices in planning the fatal protest action," Lobsang said during the press briefing this morning in Dharamshala. The authorities also claimed that if the monks had not taken Phuntsok away, then they might have been able to save his life.

"We are now very afraid and worried for those monks who helped Phuntsok get away from the police" Lobsang added. The police is said to have not even tried to douse the flames on the body of the self immolating monk, but rather kept beating him instead.

The authorities on April 19 maintained that all is "normal" and they also claimed that the relations between the eight hundred personnel marching about the grounds and the monks is "harmonious". The monks, however, prefer to use "threatening" to describe the way they feel about the large number of armed forces that has taken over their home.

"If the situation really is so peaceful then why deploy such huge numbers of military personnel, there should be no need for that" said Lobsang at the press briefing and added that what he was relaying from Kirti monastery was far from plain hearsay as documentation such as video footage, pictures etc. has been transmitted to the two media coordinators in Dharamshala, all of it pointing to a different truth than that of the Chinese authorities' statements.

Chinese authorities have also accused the Kirti monastery monks of using prostitutes, getting drunk and gambling. The so called government of Aba county said it had decided to give monks "legal education" due to the "problems" there and "illegal activities" committed by some monks, the government controlled Xinhua news agency said. According to a circular released by the local government, "some monks in the monastery had visited prostitutes, got drunk and kicked up rows and engaged in gambling. And some disseminated pornographic videos."

"While the two of us lived in the Kirti monastery for almost 10 years we never saw such things happening" he continued. "It is simply impossible for this to have taken place as the monks are not even allowed outside the monastery except on Sundays, and there they have to be back at the monastery grounds before 6pm".

Commenting on allegations that a group of monks were to have incited mobs to riot in March 2008 and keeping weapons and other tools for disrupting social order, Lobsang said that the Governor of Sichuan Province and the authorities in general were yet to provide the public with proof of these claims.

According to AFP, Kate Saunders, spokeswoman for activist group International Campaign for Tibet, said the allegations were an attempt by officials to "distort and influence perceptions (...) of the deepening crackdown at Kirti". "The Kirti monks... are on the front-line of a dangerous struggle to keep Tibet's culture and religion alive, and no amount of attempted smears about sex and gambling will change that reality."

Foreigners, including journalists, have now been banned from the part of southwestern Sichuan province where the Kirti monastery is located and the phone and information communication channels are also being blocked.

According to the China Post, a notice issued on April 21 by provincial public security authorities to relevant travel agents said foreigners were prohibited from entering the Tibetan populated prefecture of Ganzi and several counties in neighboring Aba prefecture. "Foreigners already in the aforementioned areas are to be urged to leave," the notice read and adding that "when the ban is lifted there will be another notice", offering no clue as to why the ban had been effectuated

According to the international press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 'Xinhua' - the world's biggest propaganda agency belonging to the Chinese Communist Party's Propaganda Department employs more than 10,000 people. The head of the Xinhua has the rank of a minister. Since October 1949, this state-run news-agency has been completely subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party and remains the voice of the sole party.

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