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March 22, 2009

China arrests a hundred Tibetan monks

POLITICS/RELIGION - Nearly 100 Tibetan monks were arrested on Sunday after hundreds of protesters attacked a police station in northwestern China, in the town of Ragya on Saturday.

The protest appeared to be in retaliation for of a Tibetan monk after he escaped from police custody Saturday and went missing (police claim he committed suicide by jumping in a river). The monk was charged with unfurling a Tibetan flag, which is banned in China.

Saturday's protest of approx. 2000 people was one of the largest protests in a tense month of tightened Chinese security in the region because of a number of sensitive anniversaries. Spokespersons for the Chinese government say the protest included nearly 100 monks from the Ragya Monastery and assaulting policemen and government staff.

The protesters were angry because they believed a man, a 28-year-old monk named Tashi Sangpo, jumped in a river to commit suicide after fleeing from police.

"When Tashi was being interrogated by the officials, he asked their permission to go to the toilet. He then went out and jumped into the Yellow River," says a Tibetan exile on condition of anonymity. "The dead body is yet to be found."

Tashi Sangpo was being investigated by police because he unfurled a Tibetan flag on the roof of the monastery on March 10th, the anniversary of the start of a 1959 abortive Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule, and distributed pamphlets on the street urging unified protests against Chinese rule.

China claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries and that Beijing's tight control is draining them of their culture and identity.

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