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Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 10:56 UK

Monks 'asked to leave Qinghai quake zone'

Monks carry a body in a funeral procession in Jiegu town, Yushu, on 21 April 2010
Large numbers of monks travelled to Yushu to help with the relief efforts

The Chinese government has confirmed that it has asked Tibetan monks to leave Qinghai's earthquake-hit region so as not to hinder relief operations.

Hundreds of monks had rushed to Yushu County in the wake of the 14 April earthquake, which left more than 2,000 people dead and thousands homeless.

The population of Yushu - high on the Tibetan plateau - is 97% ethnic Tibetan.

China's State Council said the monks should return to their monasteries.

"The duties of rescue workers in the quake zone are basically over, and the focus has moved to disease prevention and reconstruction, which need specialised people," it said in a statement issued by its information office.

"While fully recognising the positive contributions of the monks that came from other areas, we suggested to them that they return to their monasteries to ensure the high effectiveness and order of quake relief work."

'Grateful'

The statement confirms earlier reports that the monks had been told to go home.

But the Yushu prefectural governor, Wang Yuhu, was later quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying that no such orders had been given or received by him.

"Actually, we are very grateful for the role Tibetan monks played in the relief effort," the agency quoted him as saying.

The monks began arriving in Yushu shortly after the earthquake and played a major role digging people out of rubble and tending to survivors.

But correspondents say Beijing remains wary of their loyalty to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Two years ago violent protests in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa sparked anti-China demonstrations in ethnic Tibetan parts of surrounding provinces, including Qinghai.

Qinghai map



SEE ALSO
China remembers earthquake dead
21 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
Two China quake survivors rescued
19 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
Fears for the future in quake-hit Yushu
19 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
China quake bodies burnt on pyres
18 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
Qinghai quake: Chinese media reaction
15 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
'No link' between Chinese quakes
14 Apr 10 |  Science & Environment

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