The head of Tibet's main prison told U.S. religious leaders that reports of monks and nuns being abused in his prison were just "stories," Chinese media reported Thursday.

After touring the prison for an hour, Rabbi Arthur Schneier of New York and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, N.J., asked to speak with some of the 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns among the prison's 600 inmates, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.One of two nuns they were allowed to meet, Gaisang Zholma, said she had been sentenced to four years in prison for "harming state security," the report said, without elaborating.

The charge is broadly applied to pro-independence activities such as displaying posters or exhibiting the Tibetan flag.

Xinhua reported McCarrick asked Norbu, the head of the prison, whether prisoners had been abused. Norbu, who uses one name, said any accounts of abuse McCarrick heard were "stories," Xinhua said.

However, many clerics and lay people who have fled Tibet insist that monks and nuns in prison there have been tortured and beaten.

In the prison's factory, "scores of inmates were weaving blankets, with some humming popular songs," Xinhua's report said. It did not name the prison but described it as Tibet's main penal institution.

The visiting Americans don't plan to speak to Western media during their trip in Tibet for fear of jeopardizing contacts with officials, said their spokesman, Walter Jennings.

The group was leaving Tibet Thursday for a visit to Hong Kong before returning to the United States.