he US urged China on Tuesday to respect the rights of Tibetans, after two monks set themselves on fire, triggering a security clampdown.
Police cut internet and phone messaging services, and blocked roads near a Tibetan Buddhist monestry in Sichuan Province's Aba county, after two young monks set themselves alight at the Kirti Monastry, a scene of repeated protests against religious repression.
Shortly after, a Tibetan reached by reporters said no tourists had been allowed to enter the county since Monday afternoon, and that "many police were patrolling the streets."
The official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday that the two monks had been "rescued" and taken to the county's hospital, where they were being treated for burns, although a witness told AFP that it was highly unlikely that one of the monks had survived his injuries.
Report: China Rejects US Concerns Over Immolated Tibetan Monks
(VOA, 28 September 2011)
Report: China seals off restive Tibetan monastery (AFP, 28 September 2011)
In response, the US state department said it was seriously concerned about the protest.
"In light of the continuing underlying grievances of China's Tibetan population, we again urge Chinese leaders to respect the rights of Tibetans."
State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also urged Beijing to allow access to Tibetan areas of China for journalists and diplomats.
In reply, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday that China opposes interference in its internal affairs by any other country. Mr. Hong also responded to an announcement by the 76 year old Dalai Lama that he would decide whether he should be reincarnated when he is "about 90."
He also said that any decision by the Dalai Lama to appoint a successor through traditional reincarnation would break Chinese law, and that the title of Dalai Lama would only be conferred and legal with Beijing approval. Mr Hong insisted that China protects the legal rights of its ethnic minorities.
Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they view as increasing domination by China's majority Han ethnic group and accuse the government of trying to dilute their predominantly Buddhist culture.
China, however, says that Tibetan living standards have improved markedly in recent decades, pointing to the billions of dollars it has spent on infrastructure and development projects.
The Tibetan government in exile, based in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, said it was "deeply saddened" by the incident which highlighted the "desperation of the Tibetan people".
Report: US urges China on Tibetan rights after monks' protest
(BBC News, 28 September 2011)
Report: China Warns Dalai Lama about Choosing Successor (VOA, 26 September 2011)
Report: Two monks try to self-immolate in China (AFP, 27 September 2011)