China Rejects US Criticism of Tibet Monastery Stand-Off

Kirti monastery

China rejected U.S. criticism of its handling of unrest at a large Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday the U.S. should "respect facts" and stop making "irresponsible remarks."

Last week, the U.S. State Department said that China's use of force to block demonstrations by monks at the monastery was inconsistent with freedom of religion and human rights.

Hong said in Beijing that conditions at the Kirti monastery, in an ethnically Tibetan area of Sichuan Province, are normal and supplies are allowed to enter the compound. He said, however, the temple's administration and the police have established what he called a "joint patrol team" to stop unauthorized people from entering the grounds.

The monastery has been under guard since last month, when a young monk set himself on fire to protest China's policies on Tibet. Last week, Tibetan exiles reported that area residents tried to block security forces from entering the monastery, and that police set attack dogs on the crowd and beat people. Foreign journalists are rarely allowed to enter Tibetan areas, so neither the exiles' allegations nor the government's report that conditions are normal can be verified.

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

China denies discriminating against ethnic minorities and points to laws it says help minorities, such as allowing them more than one child. Beijing also says that Tibetan living standards have improved significantly in the past few decades, as the central government has poured in funds for development projects.