Monks yesterday rebuffed a government appeal for negotiations to avoid a week-long blockade of the Po Lin Monastery and the famed Big Buddha statue which is due to begin tomorrow. The impasse came despite intervention by the Hong Kong Buddhist Association which said it would try to help start talks between the two sides. The Islands District Board, led by its chairman Lam Wai-keung, will meet Sik Chi Wai, who heads the monastery, today in a late attempt to head off the blockade. Sik Chi Wai announced on Monday he would seal off access to the Big Buddha and the monastery for a week from tomorrow and a spokeswoman from his office said yesterday there was no plan to back down. The protest is aimed at heading off a government plan to relocate a bus terminal and open a tourist bazaar in front of the monastery. The Planning Department, which has drafted a zoning plan to designate the area outside the monastery an open space under the tourism development plan, said yesterday a group of vendors and noodle shop operators there could continue their businesses if the plan went ahead. Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Stephen Ip Shu-kwan appealed on Tuesday to the monks not to carry out the blockade, saying all government plans were open to negotiation and revision. A monastery spokeswoman said yesterday senior monks were too busy with religious ceremonies to enter into talks with government officials. 'Today [Wednesday] is the 18th day of a 20-day world convention for faithfuls to learn the basics to become monks. It is towards the end and it's a most important day,' the spokeswoman said. She said if there was a change of plan, it would be announced tomorrow. About 500 followers from Hong Kong, the mainland, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Canada and the US are at the convention which will end tomorrow. Sik Chi Wai, in a television interview yesterday, said: 'We are not asking government officials to give us more. We are asking them to let things be, which is something guaranteed by law.' He was referring to Article 141 of the Basic Law, which guarantees religious freedom, the property rights of religious groups and their right to run their own affairs as long as they follow SAR laws. The Buddhist Association said yesterday that it would try to help mediate in the dispute but there would not be a set time-frame. The blockade is expected to start as soon as the 20-day convention is over, according to a banner unfurled yesterday telling the public the monastery would be closed for a week and advising them not to visit.