BEIJING (Reuters) - A Tibetan monk was killed and eight people were hurt when Tibetan farmers and soldiers clashed in China’s western Sichuan province late last week, local sources told Reuters on Monday.
The clash erupted on Friday after Tibetan farmers in Dandu township refused to sign a pledge committing to plant a certain amount of their land with crops and armed police were called in.
One monk named Panchou Lede was killed, said a senior monk at the Hor Drago monastery, known in Chinese as the Shouling monastery.
The dead monk had been organizing farmers to refuse to plant crops, an employee at the People’s Hospital in Luhuo county said, confirming the death but attributing it to a motorbike accident.
Tibetan areas in western Sichuan and elsewhere have been under lockdown this month, the anniversary of major protests last year against Chinese rule and the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising that resulted in the Dalai Lama’s exile.
But reports of isolated incidents in Tibetan areas of Sichuan and Qinghai provinces have trickled out, underscoring lingering tensions. A week ago, police detained nearly 100 monks after hundreds of people rioted in Qinghai.
Ties between police and Tibetan farmers in Luhuo county, in the high grasslands of the Tibetan plateau, have long been tense, the hospital employee said.
Last Thursday, a county official traveled to several villages in Luhuo to promote planting of spring crops, according to the prefectural government website. It showed photos of smiling farmers with newly broken earth.
His visit sparked efforts by officials in Dandu to enforce the pledge with signatures the following day, the sources said.
Tibetans in western Sichuan put up the fiercest resistance to the Communist Party’s land reform policies in the 1950s, and tensions have persisted since.
Meanwhile, foreign tourists will be allowed back into Tibet proper from April 5 because the troubled region will be “harmonious and safe” by then, the official Xinhua news agency quoted a top tourism official as saying.
Tibet as well as ethnic Tibetan areas of other Chinese provinces were closed to outsiders during the anniversary period.
“Tibet will resume receiving foreign tourists as of April 5, and we warmly welcome them,” Xinhua quoted the head of Tibet’s tourism department as saying on Sunday.
Foreigners still need special permits, in addition to a Chinese visa, if they want to visit the region.
Reporting by Beijing Newsroom, Writing by Lucy Hornby, Editing by Dean Yates