August 29, 2011
Three Tibetan Buddhist monks face a two-day trial after monk set himself on fire at Buddhist monastery
BEIJING (AP) — The first trial opened Monday in the cases of three
Tibetan Buddhist monks charged with murder in western China over the
self-immolation death of a colleague in what was described as a
The March 16 death of Rigzin Phuntsog, 16, was seen by fellow monks
and observers as a political protest against China's heavy-handed
controls on Tibetan Buddhism and provoked a standoff between security
forces and monks.
Authorities accuse two monks, Tsering Tenzin and Tenchum, of plotting,
instigating, and assisting in the self-immolation. A third, Drongdru,
is accused of moving and hiding the injured monk, preventing him from
receiving emergency treatment for 11 hours and eventually leading to
One of the monks went on trial on Monday and two more will follow on
Tuesday, a clerk with the Maerkang County People's Court in Sichuan
province's Aba prefecture said.
The clerk, who gave only his surname, Zhou, said he did not know which
monk went on trial Monday nor how long the trials would last, although
the outcomes in such cases are usually predetermined by authorities.
The monastery where the incident occurred, Ngaba Kirti in Sichuan
province, is under tight guard by security forces who are accused by
pro-Tibetan groups overseas of beating onlookers and detaining monks.
The area is off-limits to foreign journalists.
The circumstances surrounding the monk's death remain murky, and in
June, China rejected pressure from a U.N. human rights panel to
provide information about more than 300 of Kirti's monks whose
whereabouts it said are unknown since the monastery was raided in
The Foreign Ministry said only that monks were undergoing "legal
education" — a reference to hours-long compulsory political lectures
on the basics of the Chinese constitution, criminal law and
regulations on religious affairs.
Tibetan monks tend to be fiercely loyal to Tibet's exiled Buddhist
leader, the Dalai Lama, 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 that take time away from
religious study and practice.
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