BEIJING -- Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet autonomous regional government, said here Wednesday that none of the monks identified as fatalities by the Dalai Lama had proven to be dead after careful investigation.
Of the list provided by the Dalai Lama, five referred to monks who served at lamaseries in the autonomous region, Qiangba Puncog told a press briefing organized by the State Council Information Office.
"The police tried to verify those 'victims' one by one. The result was that one name was a fabrication" and the other four were alive and well," the chairman said.
Qiangba Puncog also rebutted the Dalai Lama's contention that most Tibetans yearned for his spiritual leadership, including Qiangba Puncog himself and another veteran Tibetan politician, Ragdi.
"I'd better ask the Dalai Lama when and where, or through who, did I beg for his prayers?" Qiangba Puncog said.
"To the best of my knowledge," he said "the overwhelming majority of the Tibetan people, including monks, are supporting the Communist Party of China and our socialism."
Monks not punished
The monks who spoke to foreign reporters in Johkang Temple during their Lhasa visit were not punished, said Qiangba Puncog.
"They are still in Johkang Temple and will be if they do not participate in any law-breaking activities such as beating, smashing, robbing and burning," Qiangba Puncog told the press conference.
As a country ruled by law, China will not punish anyone for expressing their opinions to the media, he said, "But if they commit any crime, it is another issue."
A group of monks disrupted a media coverage tour in the Jokhang Temple on March 27 when reporters from 19 media organizations including foreign ones paid a three-day visit to Lhasa after the March 14 violence.
"I think it is natural for some lamas to have their own opinions and talk to the media," said Qiangba Puncog. "But what they said is not true."
Citing a monk saying that the authority killed more than 100 people in Lhasa, he said that the monk himself later said he learned this from the Voice of America.
Foreign reporters can still visit Tibet after going through relevant procedures, he said.
"For safety concern, foreigners and foreign media need to follow relevant regulations of China. We neither want to restrict media coverage nor have we anything to cover up," he said.