China says it will step up 're-education' of Tibetans


China on Saturday signalled it would step up a campaign to re-educate Tibetans in an effort to turn them into "patriots", following nearly a month of protests against Chinese rule of Tibet.


"It is necessary to reinforce patriotic education," Tibet's deputy Communist Party chief Hao Peng was quoted in the Tibet Daily as telling a group of influential monks in the remote Himalayan region.


"Guide the monks so that they continue to foster the tradition of love of religion, love of the country and to hold high the banner of patriotic progress.


"(You must) set an example among the temples of Tibetan Buddhism."


Hao was speaking on Thursday at the ancient Tashilumpo monastery in Shigatse, the seat of the Panchen Lama, who ranks number two in Tibetan Buddhist's hierarchy behind the Dalai Lama.


China has been trying to quell nearly four weeks of protests against its 57-year rule of Tibet, unrest that has turned deadly and deeply angered leaders in Beijing as they prepare to host the Olympics in August.


China says Tibetan rioters have killed 18 civilians and two policemen in the unrest, while Tibet's exiled leaders say 135-140 people have been killed in a Chinese crackdown.


The protests began in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, on March 10, then escalated into a day of rioting in the city four days later. Protests also spread to many other areas of western China with Tibetan populations.


In the latest major protest, China's official Xinhua news agency reported police were forced to fire warning shots at "rioters" in Garze county, Sichuan province, on Thursday after the protesters seriously injured a local official.


But Tibetan activist groups said police fired directly into the protesters, killing at least eight.


The activist groups said tensions in the area escalated after authorities went to the local monastery and tried to conduct a "re-education" campaign.


Monks at the Tonkhor monastery were ordered to denounce the Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland in 1959 and remains a revered figure for Tibetans. They refused to do so, according to the activists.


In his speech, Hao called for the Tashilumpo monks to teach others to "strictly respect" Chinese law.


"And especially reinforce education of young monks about the legal system so that they become patriots who love religion and observe discipline and law," he said. (AFP)