Tibetan monk in Kathmandu becomes 100th to set himself alight

Exiled man's protest against China's 'oppression' shocks tourists at a restaurant in Kathmandu

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 5:40am


A Tibetan monk doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire in a Kathmandu tourist area yesterday - the 100th self-immolation attempt in a wave of protests against Chinese rule since 2009.

Police spokesman Keshav Adhikari said the exile burned himself at a restaurant near Kathmandu's Boudhanath Stupa, one of the world's holiest Buddhist shrines, terrifying tourists who were having breakfast.

"At around 8.20am, a man in his early 20s arrived at a restaurant, went to the toilet and poured petrol over his body and set himself alight," he said.

At around 8.20am, a man in his early 20s arrived at a restaurant, went to the toilet and poured petrol over his body and set himself alight

He was taken to hospital in a critical condition. "His entire body was caught in the flames. At the hospital he tried to speak but couldn't," Adhikari said.

The officer said it was not yet clear if the man had been shouting slogans protesting against China's rule in Tibet when he set himself alight. The Tibetan government in exile, based in the Indian town of Dharamshala in the foothills of the Himalayas, previously put the total of self-immolation attempts since 2009 at 99, with 83 of them ending in death.

The wave of protests, most cases of which occur in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, are seen as a sign of desperation in the community over perceived religious persecution.

Before yesterday's case, the prime minister of the Tibetan exile government, Lobsang Sangay, blamed Chinese authorities and called for the international community to take note.

"Because there is no freedom of speech or outlet for any form of protest, unfortunately Tibetans have chosen self-immolations," he said in Dharamshala. "To the international community I say 'Stand up for Tibetans,'" he added.

Beijing blames the Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, for encouraging the immolations and points to huge investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.

The Dalai Lama's office in New Delhi confirmed the 100th immolation attempt involved a monk, with representative Tempa Tsering calling it "very unfortunate".

Nepal, home to around 20,000 Tibetans, is under pressure from Beijing over the exiles, and has said it will not tolerate what it calls "anti-China activities".

A Tibetan community activist in Nepal said of yesterday's protest: "It's a sacrifice for the Tibetan people's struggle for freedom.

"People are no longer afraid to go to this extent because (oppression) has crossed the limit."