China deepens religious repression in Tibet-report

BEIJING, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Religious repression in the Chinese ruled Himalayan region of Tibet is tightening, with authorities intensifying pressure on monks to denounce the exiled Dalai Lama, a new report said on Monday.

The government had started building police stations close to, or even in, monasteries, limiting the number of monks or nuns and making them take exams to prove their loyalty to China, the London-based Tibet Watch said.

Though visitors to Tibet may notice rebuilt and restored monasteries and monks and nuns apparently able to freely practise Buddhism, it is only for show, the group said.

"Monks have also told us of returning to monasteries that are more like museums. Monks and nuns talk of having money donated for the upkeep of monasteries and nunneries snatched by the Chinese authorities," Anne Holmes, Acting Director of Free Tibet Campaign, said in a statement.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron hand since its troops took control in 1950. But many in Tibet still pledge loyalty to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, despite Beijing's condemnation of him as a traitor for staging a failed uprising against Chinese rule and fleeing to India in 1959.

China denies religious repression and regularly defends its rule in Tibet, saying the Communists ended centuries of serfdom and brought prosperity to the underdeveloped region.

Tibet Watch said China was trying to crack down on Tibetans' devotion to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, with a series of new measures, including detaining and torturing monks and nuns who refuse to denounce him.

Tibet Watch quoted an unidentified nun as describing what happened to her when soldiers found she was wearing a picture of the Dalai Lama around her neck, as China has banned his image being show in the country.

"They saw the photo and when I would not give it to them, the soldiers rushed over and beat me. When my companions cried out that a nun was being killed, they were beaten and thrown across the room," she said.

"I was punched and kicked and blood was spouting from my mouth. Then I was tied to a pillar and kicked on my chest many times," the nun added.

China must respect religious freedom in Tibet, the report added.

"How can China ever expect to be a respected player on the world stage when it does everything in its power to control and undermine the religious beliefs that are a basic human right of the Tibetan people?" Holmes added. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard, editing by Nick Macfie)