- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - A Tibetan monk was beaten to death by police in southwestern China after urging Tibetans to boycott farming to protest a massive security clampdown, a U.S.-funded radio station reported Tuesday.

Radio Free Asia said Phuntsok Rabten, a 27-year-old monk from Draggo monastery in the predominantly Tibetan Ganzi prefecture of Sichuan province, died last Wednesday after trying to escape police by motorcycle and on foot.

There was no way of independently verifying the report, which cited a former area resident now living in India. Calls to local police at the county and township levels rang unanswered while a man who answered the phone at the county’s Communist Party branch would not comment.

A monk who answered the phone at the Draggo monastery said that a monk there died last Friday, adding he did not know how. But subsequent calls to the same number were answered by others who said it was not the monastery.

Security forces poured into China’s Tibetan areas following anti-Beijing demonstrations last year, and their presence has been stepped up again in recent weeks. March marked several sensitive anniversaries for Tibetans, including one year since the anti-government riots in Lhasa, Tibet’s regional capital, and 50 years since the Dalai Lama escaped into exile.

Police tried to stop Phuntsok Rabten from distributing flyers urging Tibetans not to till their fields to protest Beijing’s crackdown on demonstrators last March and to mourn Tibetans who died in the violence, the report said.

The monk was eventually cornered by county police, said the report, citing Konchog Norbu, the former resident who now lives in southern India but remains in contact with sources in the region.

“He was severely beaten by the Chinese security force and died at the scene,” Konchog Norbu was quoted as saying. “His body was tossed over a cliff in order to cover up the death.”

The radio station said police also detained two monks from another monastery in the same county, also last Wednesday, for holding a protest in the area and calling on Tibetans to boycott farming.

A rugged, deeply Buddhist region filled with monasteries and nunneries, Ganzi is known for its strong Tibetan identity and has been at the center of dissent for years. It saw some of the most violent protests last spring.

Although the Dalai Lama has said that Chinese restrictions on Tibet’s religious practices have resulted in a “cultural genocide,” Beijing insists it has bettered the lives of the people by improving the economy and developing the Himalayan region.

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