Beijing: October 4
News agency AFP has reportedly said that a young Tibetan monk set himself on fire in southwest China protesting against Chinese government.The 17-year old monk from Kirti monastery on Sichuan province tried to self-immolate informed the US-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), the report said. Activists and experts of the world find it a ‘rare’ and ‘worrying’ trend as this happens to be the fifth such incident in this year.
ICT got to know about this incident from Tibetans in exile in Aba town, where the incident occurred Monday. The group informed AFP that security personnel extinguished the flames, beat him and took him away. Just one week ago two more young monks set themselves on fire at Kirti in an apparent protest against religious repression in China. An another Tibet right group confirmed the news with contacts in the region.
ICT said Kelsang Wangchuk, the monk who set himself on fire Monday, carried a photo of the Dalai Lama when he mounted his protest, adding his current condition and whereabouts were unknown.
The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, is revered by many Tibetans but criticised by Beijing as a “splittist”.
An employee at the Aba local government told AFP she was “unaware” of the incident, and the local police and hospital were not immediately available for comment.
One local reached by phone, who refused to be named, said he did not know about the latest self-immolation, but added there were a lot of police in Aba town on Monday.
“I went out at around 3pm (0700GMT) but the road was blocked by police. I waited there in the rain for over an hour, and then the police told us to go home,” he said.
“We were told to stay inside after that,” he added.
A man inside Kirti monastery told AFP there were police outside the building, but refused to comment further.
Barry Sautman, an associate professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who studies ethnic politics, said self-immolations in Tibetan regions had been a “rare” occurrence until recently.
“I don’t think that we knew of any examples until recently, at least no examples that occurred inside Tibet,” he said, referring to wider Tibetan areas.
“There was one example of a Tibetan exile who immolated himself some years back. At the time, the Dalai Lama condemned the self-immolation and said it contravened the Buddhist idea of the sanctity of life.
“So it’s rather unusual for Buddhist monks in Tibet who are presumably devoted to the Dalai Lama to take this path.”
Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they view as increasing domination by the country’s majority Han ethnic group.
China, however, says that Tibetan living standards have improved with billions in Chinese investment.
Apart from the three attempted self-immolations over the past week, there have been two other reported cases in the same restive Tibetan region in Sichuan — one in August and another in March.
Stephanie Brigden, director of Free Tibet — another rights group — said it was an “extremely worrying and absolutely unprecedented trend.”
“A growing number of Tibetans clearly feel that this is the only way that they can be heard,” she said.