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Sentencing Of Tibetan Monks

Exiled Tibetans light candles in front of portraits of 21-year-old monk Phuntsog, during a candlelit vigil to honor the monk who set himself on fire in an anti-government protest, in Dharmsala, India.

A Chinese court convicted Drongdru, a Tibetan monk, for intentionally killing a young monk who self-immolated at the Kirti Monastery.

"We are concerned by reports that a Chinese court has convicted and sentenced Drongdru, a Tibetan monk, for 'intentionally killing' Rigzin Phuntsog, the young monk who self-immolated at the Kirti Monastery in March," said the U.S. State Department in a press release. "The court sentenced Drongdru to eleven years in prison. It is unclear whether he was accorded the procedural rights to which he is entitled under China’s Constitution and laws, and under international standards."

According to reports, the 16 year-old monk Rigzin Phuntsog died on March 16th after setting fire to himself at Kirti monastery in China’s Sichuan province, close to the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Kirti monastery's Tibetan Buddhist monks have staged several open protests since March 2008.

"We urge the Chinese government to ensure transparency and to uphold the procedural protections and rights to which Chinese citizens are entitled under China’s Constitution and laws, and under international standards," said the U.S. State Department. "The U.S. government repeatedly has urged the Chinese government to allow access to Tibetan areas of China for both journalists and diplomats so accurate information can be reported."

Two other monks from the Kirti monastery, Tenchum and Tsering Tenzin, also reportedly have been sentenced to 10 and 13 years respectively for "plotting, instigating and assisting" the death of the young monk Rigzin Phuntsog. Travel to Tibetan areas remains restricted, and accurate information remains difficult to obtain.

"To resolve underlying grievances of China’s Tibetan population," said the State Department, "we urge Chinese leaders to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tension and to protect Tibetans’ unique linguistic, cultural and religious identity."