They took us to the prefecture head, who, thankfully, was a warm-hearted Tibetan man who could speak English well enough to explain what was going on. We were unaware that the Chinese government had recently restricted access to that region of Gansu for foreign tourists in response to protests by ethnic Tibetans living there.
The head of the prefecture drove us back across the prefecture border and ensured that we boarded a bus to return to where we had come from after providing us with a delicious vegetarian Chinese lunch.
On that trip, we never got to the Labrang Monastery, but at that point, we were just glad to not be in a Chinese prison. We are currently in Mongolia and intend to cross into China in a few weeks. Ten years later, we are going to give Labrang another shot because we have been informed that it has reopened to foreign visitors. We will only have amazing travel tales to share if we don’t get caught this time!