2 Dead as Monks Clash With Police in West China Protest

BEIJING -- A clash between protesters and police in a Tibetan area of western China killed at least two people, state media and a rights group said Tuesday, as the country's top police official called for stepped-up "patriotic campaigns" in monasteries to boost support for Beijing.

The demonstration in Garze, a prefecture in Sichuan province, started Monday as a peaceful march by monks and nuns but turned violent when police tried to suppress the crowd, which grew to about 200 after residents joined in, the Dharmsala, India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said the protesters attacked police with knives and stones, killing one policeman. The Tibetan rights group said an 18-year-old monk died and another was critically wounded after security agents fired live rounds.

It was not immediately possible to confirm either claim. Officials answering telephone calls Tuesday at police and government offices in Garze either denied anything had happened or said they had not heard of such reports.

Garze borders Tibet, where anti-government protests led by monks spiraled into violence on March 14 in Lhasa. Demonstrations in support of the Lhasa protests have since burgeoned rapidly throughout provinces surrounding Tibet.

The unrest in Garze indicates that Tibetan defiance is still running strong a week after thousands of Chinese troops fanned out to patrol areas outside of Lhasa and clamp down on fresh protests.

Meng Jianzhu, the minister of public security, ordered Tibet's security forces to remain on alert for further unrest and said "patriotic education" campaigns would be strengthened in monasteries, according to the Tibet Daily newspaper.