Monks in Tibetan monasteries are being encouraged to join a signature campaign “to express love for the country and religion”, Chinese state media said on Tuesday even as the government announced a string of welfare measures aimed at addressing concerns in the wake of self-immolation protests.

Around 1,000 monks and nuns in monasteries in the Shannan prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region signed their names on Monday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. They resolved to “comply with law and dharma, choose right from wrong, advocate harmony and pursue peace”.

The campaign comes after officials put in place new measures to govern the management of monasteries in TAR and Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan, including committees to better regulate activities and to administer patriotic education.

The government has also announced a slew of welfare measures following the more than 30 self-immolation protests over the past year. On Tuesday, the first regional bank in TAR opened its doors to improve access to loans for small and medium-scale businesses, state media reported. The move to set up a Bank of Tibet was sanctioned by a Central government work conference in 2010 which called for measures to “maintain stability and peace” and boost development.

Last week, a top official of the TAR regional government blamed the self-immolations on “a political scheme”, accusing the Dalai Lama and his supporters of being behind the incidents.

Qiangba Puncog, a member of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress and former chairman of TAR, said no self-immolations had been reported in TAR, with the incidents taking place in Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.

“Any one with reason could tell whether [the self-immolations] were the result of a lack of religious freedom in the Tibet Autonomous Region, or that of a political scheme to internationalise the Tibet issue,” he was quoted as saying by Xinhua. He also blamed the Dalai Lama, saying that “[the Dalai Lama clique] is responsible for the losses of lives.”

While the Dalai Lama has stressed that he did not encourage the protests and has blamed repressive Chinese policies for triggering the incidents, he has also expressed sympathy with the protesters and chose not to answer a question last week when asked if monks should stop setting themselves on fire.

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