Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Tibetan monk sets himself on fire in Sichuan city

AFP , BEIJING

Tensions were high in a flashpoint town of southwest China yesterday after a Tibetan monk set himself on fire in protest against Chinese rule, activist groups and residents said.

Chinese authorities confirmed a man had set himself alight, but did not acknowledge claims by activist groups that police shot the monk and that he had embarked on his protest after officials banned prayers at his monastery.

The incident on Friday came amid reported protests across the Tibetan plateau ahead of the ultra-sensitive 50th anniversary on March 10 of a failed uprising against Chinese rule that led to the Dalai Lama fleeing to India.

The monk, in his late 20s, was shot after dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself alight in the Tibetan-populated town of Aba in Sichuan Province, the London-based group Free Tibet reported.

The monk, from Kirti monastery in Aba, held a flag with an image of the Dalai Lama, the Himalayan region’s spiritual leader, as he embarked on his protest, Free Tibet and other activist groups said.

They cited unnamed witnesses and Aba residents.

In a brief report from Xinhua news agency, Aba Communist Party chief Shi Jun confirmed a man wearing monk’s robes had walked out of the monastery and set himself alight.

Shi reportedly said police put out the fire and that the man was taken to hospital with burn injuries to his neck and head.

The Xinhua report made no mention of any shooting by police, while local authorities refused to comment to reporters.

Locals telephoned by reporters yesterday were extremely fearful of discussing the matter. Some said police had fired shots but would not elaborate.

One resident, who could not be named for fear of reprisal, said police had told her not to say anything but she confirmed police had fired shots.

“It’s true, but I can’t say anymore. My phone is monitored,” she told reporters before hanging up.

Aba has been a flashpoint town since police opened fire on an anti-Chinese protest there in March last year, in violence that activists said left at least seven Tibetans dead.

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