Tibetan monk sets himself on fire, report says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 4:43am

A Tibetan monk died after setting himself on fire in Sichuan province, reports said yesterday, in the first such protest for more than a month.

Kunchok Sonam, 18, carried out the protest on Saturday outside a monastery in Aba prefecture, Radio Free Asia said in a report that cited residents in the area.

Sonam shouted slogans "crying for Tibetan freedom", the broadcaster, which is funded by the US government, cited a local resident as saying.

The self-immolation was the first by a Tibetan on the mainland for five weeks, the report said, adding that his fellow monks had prevented Chinese authorities from taking away Sonam's body after the deadly protest.

Restrictions on communication in the area "have been intensified" after the self-immolation, the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group said in a statement.

Some 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since February 2009 in protests against what they see as Chinese oppression, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said before news of the latest self- immolation emerged.

The protests - which reportedly have resulted in dozens of deaths - peaked in the run-up to the Communist Party's pivotal party congress last November, but have become less common in recent months.

Beijing condemns the acts and blames them on the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled leader, saying he uses them to further a separatist agenda. But some Tibetans and rights groups say the protests are a response to tight controls on religion in the region.

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959 after a failed uprising, has described the protests as acts of desperation that he is powerless to stop.