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China orders monks from quake zone
Officials deny decision is political, saying that monks could obstruct relief efforts.
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2010 07:57 GMT
Chinese authorties say the monks were told to leave so reconstruction projects can begin [Reuters]

Chinese authorities have said that Buddhist monks were advised to leave the earthquake zone in western Qinghai province in order to allow "specialised personnel" to carry out reconstruction work. 

Officials on Friday denied accusations that the monks had been urged to return to their monastries for political reasons, saying that their continued presence would get in the way of efforts to help survivors.

Tibetan Buddhist monks played a key role in responding to the disaster on April 14, searching for survivors, distributing food and cremating the dead.

"Now it's the phase for epidemic prevention and reconstruction and [it] requires specialised personnel to start their work,' a statement released by the State Council, China's cabinet, said.

"It would bring more difficulties to disaster relief work if lots of unprofessional
personnel were at the scene."

'Positive role'

Earlier this week monasteries were given verbal orders to recall the thousands of monks who had flooded to the region from neighbouring provinces.

On Thursday, the Free Tibet activist group accused the Chinese government of "air-brushing" monks out of the official portrayal of the disaster.

The statement from the State Council said it recognised the contribution made by the monks.

"After the quake, monks in Yushu rapidly took part in rescue efforts along with other people, religious groups continuously donated money and aid, continued to organise religious activities such as prayers, and played a positive role," it said.

Beijing has a difficult relationship with the Buddhist monks, accusing the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader, of inciting violence in an attempt to secure Tibet's independence.

In 2008, initially peaceful protests by monks in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, spilled over into violence

The 6.9 magnitude quake caused thousands of mainly mudbrick and wooden homes to collapse in the Yushu region of Qinghai, a rugged area at an altitude of around 4,000 metres, populated by ethnic Tibetans.

The death toll has risen to 2,187, with schoolchildren accounting for about 200 deaths.

More than 12,000 people were injured and 9,000 of those remain hospitalised, according to the Chinese health ministry.

China observed a national day of mourning on Wednesday to remember the victims of the quake. Flags were lowered across China and at Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide in mourning for the dead.

Source:
Agencies
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