BEIJING, China, (Baltimore Sun)--Five Buddhist nuns committed suicide in a Tibetan prison after being severely beaten, shocked with cattle prods and forced to stand in the hot sun for days, according to a report.

The deaths occurred after the nuns in Drapchi Prison refused to sing patriotic Chinese songs, according to the report issued by Tibet Information Network, an independent news and research service based in London.

Although the deaths occurred in 1998 and were briefly reported last year, the document to be released today details for the first time the circumstances leading up to the suicides while offering a rare glimpse into the lives of political prisoners in Tibet.

The 64-page report portrays Drapchi as a brutal place where nuns were beaten senseless with wooden planks, belt buckles and rubber hoses filled with sand. Police and prison guards punished them by applying electric batons to their tongues, ears and genitalia.

The Tibet Information Network maintains research operations in India and Nepal, both neighboring Tibet.

The alleged torture at Drapchi and the subsequent suicides are part of a half-century battle between Tibetans and the Chinese government over Tibet.

In 1950, Chinese soldiers invaded Tibet, which was operating as a de-facto independent state. During the next several decades of Chinese occupation, an estimated 6,000 Tibetan monasteries were destroyed and 1.2 million Tibetans died as a result of torture, execution, war or starvation, according to the Tibetan government in exile.

Chinese officials portray the invasion as a "peaceful liberation" of Tibet, which was ruled at the time under a feudal theocracy.

(C) 2000 Baltimore Sun, distributed by The Des Moines Register via Bell&Howell Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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