Tibetan burns himself to death in China in 101 self-immolation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

A Tibetan man burned himself to death in protest against Chinese rule, reports and Western rights groups said on Thursday, bringing the total to have set themselves on fire to at least 101.

US-based Radio Free Asia said the man, Lobsang Namgyal, who it described as a former monk from the Kirti monastery, self-immolated last week near a police station in Aba prefecture, a Tibetan area of Sichuan province in southern China.

“He ran toward the police station, calling out slogans with his body on fire, and died at the scene,” it cited exiled Tibetan monks as saying. “Police then cremated his remains and handed them over to his family.”

He ran toward the police station, calling out slogans with his body on fire, and died at the scene

The 37-year-old was one of a family of four brothers and four sisters and was detained and harassed last year by police, it cited the exiles as saying.

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet described him as a monk and said he was “known as a serious and exceptional scholar”. The first Tibetan to set himself on fire was also from Kirti monastery, it added.

Later on Thursday, police in Nepal say a Tibetan protester who set himself on fire in Nepal’s capital to protest against China has died at a hospital.

Police spokesman Keshav Adhikari said the man died on Wednesday night, hours after he self-immolated. He says police are still trying to identify the man, who appeared to be about 21 years old. No one has claimed the body yet.

The man set himself on fire and chanted anti-China slogans in the Boudhanath area of Katmandu on Wednesday.

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

The earlier report takes the number of ethnic Tibetans to have set themselves on fire since 2009 to 101. At least 84 have died, tallies show.

Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based campaign group Free Tibet, said: “This grim milestone should be a source of shame to the Chinese authorities who are responsible and to the world leaders who have yet to show any leadership in response to the ongoing crisis in Tibet.

“China employs brutal repression, propaganda and bribery to no avail: protest and resistance will continue as long as the Tibetan people are denied their freedom.”

Beijing rejects criticism of its rule, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and pointing to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.

Authorities have sought to crack down on the gruesome protests by arresting those it accuses of inciting them and prosecuting them for murder, and have embarked on a major publicity drive on the issue in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, the man in his early 20s doused himself with petrol in a restaurant washroom in the Nepalese capital, ran outside and set himself alight next to Kathmandu’s Boudhanath Stupa, one of the world’s holiest Buddhist shrines.

A Belgian woman described how she had bumped into the man shortly before he doused himself in petrol in the restaurant, saying he appeared “excited” and joked that he wanted a photo to be taken of him.

“He approached us and asked us to take a picture while he took out a lighter and turned it on. We said goodbye and headed to the cafe,” said the 47-year-old, who is volunteering in Nepal and did not want to be identified.

“After a while, smoke rose from near the gate to the stupa. What I saw was astonishing. The man was completely burned. He was like a human torch.”

“Everybody was shocked because it was utterly unexpected. It took some time for people to react,” she said.

Beijing routinely accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his “clique” of inciting such acts to push a separatist agenda.

The Dalai Lama, who says he is not seeking Tibetan independence but greater autonomy, fled his homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising. He has since based himself in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala.

RFA also said that a Tibetan woman had set herself on fire in Beijing in September after officials in Sichuan province refused to allow her to keep her ancestral home, adding that she had not previously been included in lists of Tibetan self-immolators.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press