LHASA, CHINA -- Chinese authorities here in the Tibetan capital are pressing Buddhist monks who demonstrated for Tibetan independence recently to confess that they acted wrongly, according to several monks interviewed here.

The authorities have reasserted order following three proindependence protests and are shifting their efforts to police interrogation, "educational" meetings and a propaganda campaign against those calling for independence.

The lamas, or monks, both those in prison and those in isolated monasteries, are defiantly resisting the government pressure, several monks said.

But the monks, interviewed recently at two monasteries, said they are now greatly outnumbered by the police, largely confined to their monasteries and under constant surveillance. It is virtually impossible, they say, for them to renew their demonstrations any time soon.

"We want to demonstrate, but there are too many police," said one young monk at the Drepung monastery, five miles west of Lhasa. "We have heard the police are saying they'll kill us next time."

On Sept. 27, monks from that monastery took the lead in the first of three proindependence demonstrations. On Oct. 1, a second demonstration turned into a riot. At least seven persons were killed, most of them from police gunfire. Three of the victims were monks. A third protest erupted last Tuesday.

A visit to the United States last month by Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, apparently encouraged the monks to demonstrate. Word of his speech to the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus reached here through a well-developed network of Tibetan exiles who, until recently, have been able to travel from Nepal to Lhasa.

The demonstrators also were angered by Chinese radio broadcasts that denounced the Dalai Lama for his activities in the United States, one monk said.

Chinese officials in Lhasa this week ordered foreign correspondents to leave Tibet, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has protested vigorously the U.S. congressional resolutions concerning human rights abuses in Tibet.

In Beijing today, President Li Xiannian said Congress violated the basis of U.S.-China relations by criticizing Beijing's handling of Tibet.

"The U.S. Congress can only look after U.S. affairs and has no right to interfere in other countries' internal affairs," Li said during a meeting with Lokendra Bahadur Chand, a visiting former prime minister of Nepal. His comments, reported by the official New China News Agency, represented the highest level criticism so far of what China calls foreign meddling in its affairs.

Despite their desire to go to the streets again, young monks expressed no interest in moving toward more violent actions that members of some Tibetan exile groups are reported to be advocating.

A monk at the Jokhang monastery, the home of 73 monks in the center of Lhasa, looked embarrassed when asked to explain how novice monks could have thrown stones at the police in the Oct. 1 demonstration. The demonstrators attacked the police after the police arrested and beat a number of monks.

Buddhist monks take vows to renounce violence, but many of the monks who participated in the recent demonstrations were young novices and monastic students, not full-fledged monks.

"It is not very good to throw stones," the monk said. "But we were very angry. We wanted to help the other {arrested} monks."

Most older monks appeared to be counseling the younger ones against violence and further peaceful demonstrations.

A monk in his 60s at the Drepung monastery said he would not participate in demonstrations. The reason, he said, was simple. He was arrested during a 1959 uprising against the Chinese and spent two decades in a Chinese prison.

"The older monks say they don't want us to go out and demonstrate," said a young Jokhang monk. "But inside, I think they want us to do it. They don't say so, but I think they want us to."

This monk said Chinese and Tibetan officials were holding 5 p.m. meetings each day with Jokhang monks to persuade them to admit their "mistakes" and confess that they had been deceived.

At the Sera monastery, on the northern side of Lhasa, monks spat in contempt on one occasion when officials meeting with them tried to persuade them of their errors, the monk said.

He quoted one of the Sera monks as saying, "If you kill all of us, one by one, and I'm among the last, I still won't admit we did anything wrong."

At the Drepung monastery, monks said about 50 plainclothesmen had taken up positions inside and around that monastery. It was once the largest in Tibet, with more than 10,000 monks. Today, as a result of a crackdown during a 1959 uprising, subsequent attacks by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution and continuing restrictions imposed by the Chinese, only about 450 monks reside in the huge structure.

A maze of stone alleyways that wind upward through the white-washed monastery makes it difficult for the police to keep track of all that occurs inside. During a recent trip, monks pointed to a visitor where the police were located.

Tibetan sources said a total of about 30 monks from three monasteries are being held in prison in connection with the protests. They cited relatives as saying that some of the prisoners have had food withheld from them.

"Eat independence!" one monk was supposedly told by his captors.