Protesting Tibetan monks accuse Chinese of lies

LHASA, China — The stage-managed tour of Tibet’s holiest temple was going according to the government script. Suddenly, 30 young Buddhist monks pushed their way in, slammed the door, and began shouting and crying to the foreign reporters that there is no freedom in the riot-torn region.

“What the government is saying is not true,” a monk shouted as a wellspring of grievances poured out, first in Tibetan and then in Chinese after the confused reporters asked them to switch. Finally, government officials abruptly ended the session and told the journalists it was “time to go.”

The emotional, 15-minute outburst by the red-robed monks decrying their lack of religious freedom was the only spontaneous moment Thursday in an otherwise tightly controlled government trip to the Tibetan capital for foreign reporters following this month’s deadly riots.

On the second day of the tour, officials hewed to the government line — that the most violent anti-Chinese protests in nearly two decades was plotted by the exiled Dalai Lama and his supporters. Officials escorted two dozen reporters to shops, clinics, a school and a jail to interview victims and rioters, many of them already widely interviewed by state media.

Only the monks at the Jokhang Temple, Tibet’s holiest site, managed to upend the official stage-managed event.

As reporters were ushered toward the temple’s inner shrine by a senior monk and administrator, the 30 young monks began shouting to them. The monks said the believers then in the shrine were fake — members of China’s ruling Communist Party.

They complained that troops had ringed the monastery and kept it shut with all 117 monks inside since March 10 — the day the protests began — and that the guards were only removed Wednesday, when foreign journalists arrived.

The monks, speaking in Tibetan, claimed government officials were trying to turn Tibetans against them by telling lies. But the monks didn’t elaborate on the alleged lies, according to a translation by Tibetan scholars in the U.S.

“They have destroyed the way we are seen by the people,” one monk said. “We are like prisoners here,” said another.

As the monks blurted out a stream of complaints, one cried: “The government is always telling lies, it’s all lies.”

“They killed many people. They killed many people,” a monk said.

Later, a monk said the death toll was far higher than the government was saying. “The cadres and the army killed more than 100 Tibetans. They arrested more than a thousand.”

“Tibetans have no freedom,” a monk said after some of them switched to Chinese. “We want the Dalai Lama to come back,” said another, adding that they were certain they would be detained when the reporters left.

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