Hundreds of people have been detained in Lhasa after two men set themselves on fire in the Tibetan regional capital, a US-based broadcaster said, as a young mother became the latest Tibetan to self-immolate.
Radio Free Asia said Chinese security forces had rounded up hundreds of residents and pilgrims in the wake of Sunday’s incident, the first major protest in the heavily guarded city since deadly anti-government riots in 2008.
It quoted a local source as saying about 600 Tibetans had been detained and those from outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) had been expelled.
Foreign journalists cannot go to the TAR without special permission and the report could not be independently confirmed. A security official in Lhasa said by telephone that she did not know anything about the reported detentions.
On Wednesday, a Tibetan mother of three self-immolated in front of a monastery in Sichuan Province’s Aba County, where many of the protests have taken place, Free Tibet and Radio Free Asia reported.
Free Tibet, a London-based campaign group, said the woman was in her mid-30s and died at the scene.
More than 30 people have set themselves on fire in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China since the start of March last year in protest at what they say is religious and cultural repression by the Chinese authorities.
Sunday’s protest took place as Lhasa was filled with Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims who had traveled to the city to celebrate Saga Dawa — the anniversary of Buddha’s birth.
Two Tibetan men, who were both from outside the TAR, set themselves on fire in front of the famed Jokhang Temple, a popular pilgrimage destination in the center of the city.
Police immediately put out the flames and one of the two men survived, according to Xinhua news agency. His current whereabouts are not known.
Sunday’s incident was the first of its kind in the Tibetan capital, which has been under tight security since the 2008 riots.
The state-run Tibet Daily yesterday reported that a senior Chinese Communist Party official had ordered authorities to crack down on “criminal activities” in Lhasa and on rumors spread via mobile phone and the Internet.
Residents of Lhasa said the city was under even tighter security than usual following Sunday’s protest, with police and paramilitary officers out in force, although the streets were calm.