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Associated Press
Beijing – A major Buddhist monastery in Tibet reopened this week five months after being shut by authorities during anti-government riots that rocked the region’s capital, a staff member said Friday.
The Drepung Monastery, on the outskirts of Lhasa, reopened to dozens of visitors earlier this week and has been “fairly busy” since, said a staff member who gave only his first name, Luobu. He said the monastery will hold ceremonies Saturday as part of a larger religious festival.
The 15th century monastery had been closed to the public since March 14, when monk-led protests against Chinese rule turned violent and businesses, shops and vehicles were looted and torched. Since then, Chinese authorities have sent investigative teams into the monastery to determine which monks took part in the protests and to carry out purges of suspected supporters of Tibetan independence.
Beijing banned foreign visitors and journalists from traveling to Tibet for months after the riots.
China has said 22 people died in the violence, but Tibetan supporters said many times that number were killed in the protests and subsequent military crackdown.
Drepung was one of the three historic Buddhist monasteries in the Tibetan capital where monks commemorated the March 10 anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. But after several days of quiet protests, tensions exploded on March 14 and the monasteries were ringed by troops and monks were not allowed to leave.
The Lhasa protests and later sympathy demonstrations that spread across a wide area of western China inhabited by Tibetans posed the most significant challenge to Chinese rule in nearly two decades. In 1989, similar mass demonstrations in Lhasa were also cut down by military force.
China poured tens of thousands of troops into Tibet and surrounding provinces to quash the demonstrations. Its harsh response garnered worldwide criticism, and several world leaders even threatened to boycott the Beijing Olympics, which ended last Sunday.
China repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan religious leader, and his followers of instigating the unrest and trying to derail the games. Bowing to international pressure, Beijing agreed to hold talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives two times after the violence.
However, Beijing has continued to vilify the exiled Tibetan leader, most recently for a trip to France that ended last week. An editorial by the official Xinhua News Agency excoriated him, saying, “The more surprising the lies, the easier they are to expose.”
During his trip, the Dalai Lama accused Chinese troops of firing at a crowd of Tibetans in China last week, and said people may have been killed during the incident.
In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, he accused Beijing of imposing a new, long-term “plan of brutal repression” and building new military camps in Tibetan areas.
The Dalai Lama has said that despite China’s harsh crackdown on the March demonstrations, he still supports a solution of meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people under China’s rule, not independence.
Catherine McLoughlin, one of the few foreign journalists allowed into Tibet after the protests, wrote for the Far Eastern Economic Review in late July that Drepung Monastery remained under heavy guard by military police.
“Drepung, the largest Tibetan monastery and once home to as many as 10,000 monks, is now a re-education camp for monks involved in the March 14 uprising,” she wrote. Up to 1,000 monks inside are being forced to undergo “patriotic education” in which they are required to denounce the Dalai Lama and embrace Communist Party directives, she wrote.
Tibetan authorities said earlier this week that they would hold a forum Saturday to seek suggestions for reviving the region’s tourism. Tourist arrivals in the first half of the year dropped by 69 percent from the same period last year, with 340,000 visitors recorded.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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