Police move in after monk's fiery death

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2011, 12:00am

Sichuan police have arrested ethnic Tibetan monks and protesters after more than 1,000 took to the streets on Wednesday to express anger over a young monk who died after setting himself on fire to protest against Chinese rule, the Tibetan government-in-exile and a rights group said yesterday.

Xinhua confirmed the death of Phuntsog, who died early yesterday, more than 10 hours after setting himself alight on a street near the Kirti monastery the day before in Aba county, Sichuan, an area mainly populated by Tibetans.

According to the government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, more than 1,000 monks and other people shouted slogans and marched on the street for about a kilometre. Security forces dispersed them, using electric batons, it said.

Police arrested monks and many protesters, the government-in-exile said, without specifying numbers. Security forces cordoned off the streets in and around the main market place in Aba, ordering people to stay at home.

The government-in-exile said Phuntsog, who like many Tibetans uses only one name, set himself on fire to commemorate Tibetans 'killed in the Chinese government's brutal crackdown in the region ... in 2008'.

'It seems that the situation in Tibet is very desperate, for a monk to indulge in such an act,' said Thubten Samphel, spokesman of the government-in-exile. 'The situation is very grim.'

Many residents in the area declined to talk when contacted by a reporter who telephoned.

The London-based International Campaign for Tibet quoted Kusho Tsering, a monk now living in Dharamsala, as saying hundreds of monks had marched to the main entrance of the Kirti monastery on Wednesday evening to demand the release of monks who had been arrested. Seven monks from Kirti were released later, but 20 were believed to be still in jail.

Xinhua quoted a county government spokesman as blaming Phuntsog's death on delayed treatment. The report said police had rushed him to a nearby hospital, but monks from Kirti 'forcibly took Phuntsog out and hid him in the monastery'. He died soon after officials and his mother found him and sent him to the hospital, it said.

Repeated calls to police and government offices in Aba went unanswered yesterday.

Meanwhile, Tibet's parliament-in-exile was still deliberating about whether to approve the Dalai Lama's request to retire as political head of the government-in-exile, said Samphel.

The parliament will decide whether to accept the Dalai Lama's resignation before next Friday.