Fourth Tibetan in week self-immolates in China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 8:10pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 9:12pm

A Tibetan man died on Friday after setting himself on fire in northwest China, state media and rights groups said, in the fourth self-immolation in the region in less than a week.

Lhamo Tseten, 23, set himself on fire in front of a hospital in Xiahe, a county in western China’s Gansu province known as Labrang in Tibetan, state-run news agency Xinhua said.

Tseten “died after setting himself on fire”, Xinhua said, adding that authorities were “handling the incident”.

The self-immolation follows that of another Tibetan man, Dorje Rinchen, who set fire to himself near a military camp in the region on Tuesday. Two other Tibetan men have self-immolated in the same county since Saturday.

Nearly 60 ethnic Tibetans, many of them monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire in China since February 2009 to protest Beijing’s policies in Tibet, according to rights group Free Tibet. A small minority are thought to have survived.

Tseten called out for “freedom in Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama” while self-immolating, the London-based rights group Free Tibet said in a statement, citing eyewitnesses.

Security in Xiahe county has intensified following the self-immolation Friday, with “troops” headed to the region, US-based rights group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said, citing exiled Tibetan sources.

Tseten’s home village in Xiahe has also been put under “heavy military control”, after protracted protests by locals who oppose the construction of an airport near to a local mountain they believe to be sacred, the ICT said.

Previous self-immolation incidents have occurred in the more western province of Sichuan.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of enacting religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country’s majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

China rejects this, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.

The prime minister of Tibet’s government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, has called on the international community to resist growing pressure from China and stand up for human rights in his homeland.