(Reuters) Chinese authorities have confiscated televisions from 300 monasteries in a heavily Tibetan part of the west of the country and dismantled satellite equipment that broadcast "anti-China" programs, prompted by Tibetan self-immolations in the region.
Some 94 Tibetans, including 81 this year, have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule. Five self-immolations occurred in Tibetan-dominated Huangnan prefecture in Qinghai province, the state-run Qinghai news agency said on Thursday.
The government in Huangnan said its approach in tackling self-immolations comprised of "guiding public opinion on the Dalai issue", increasing patrols and "blocking outside harmful information", according to the news agency, which is managed by the Qinghai government.
"At this critical moment for maintaining social stability in Huangnan prefecture ... (we must) strengthen measures and fully fight the special battle against self-immolations," the article said.
"We do not know anything about it," an official from the Huangnan prefecture government told Reuters by telephone, when asked to confirm the report, before hanging up.
Beijing considers Nobel peace laureate the Dalai Lama, who fled China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, a separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.
The article said the prefecture's agricultural and pastoral areas had relied on certain satellite equipment "to watch and listen to overseas, anti-China programs".
The local government would invest 8.64 million yuan ($1.39 million) to install 50 transmitters that would broadcast 70 percent of the prefecture's television channels, the report said.
China has repeatedly denounced the Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetan groups for fomenting the self-immolations.
The United States and several other countries have called on China to end repressive policies and to negotiate with the Dalai Lama.
Beijing has defended its iron-fisted rule in Tibet, saying the remote region suffered from dire poverty, brutal exploitation of serfs and economic stagnation until 1950 when Communist troops "peacefully liberated" it.
($1 = 6.2353 yuan)
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Additional reporting by Huang Yan; Editing by Nick Macfie)