Sat, Nov 05, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Indian police halt self-immolation bid

DESPERATE PROTESTS:US Representative Frank Wolf said that he would try to block aid to Nepal unless it grants exit visas to Tibetans seeking refuge in the US

AFP, NEW DELHI and Washington

Police try to douse flames on a Tibetan demonstrator after he tried to self-immolate during a protest in front of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, India, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A Tibetan exile set himself on fire outside the Chinese embassy in New Delhi yesterday before Indian police intervened, witnesses said, in the latest self-immolation protest against China.

The young protester poured gasoline on his body and set himself on fire before police overpowered him and put out the flames, which licked up his trousers and across his waist, a photographer at the scene reported.

The man, who was on his own, had stepped off a public bus and shouted slogans during his protest before several policemen grabbed him and he fell to the ground.

He appeared to have suffered minor burns on his legs and was taken away in a police vehicle. A New Delhi police spokesman was unable to provide further details.

Since March there has been a series of self-immolations by Buddhist monks and nuns in southwest China in protests demanding religious freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama.

At least five monks and two nuns have died, rights groups have said, with the most recent death being reported on Thursday in Sichuan Province.

China has accused the Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland for India in 1959, of instigating the self-immolations in a form of “terrorism in disguise.”

The Dalai Lama has in the past condemned self-immolations, which many Buddhists believe are contrary to their faith, but has kept a low profile over the recent wave of protests.

Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they see as growing domination by the country’s majority Han ethnic group.

Most of the suicide attempts have taken place around the Kirti monastery in Sichuan, which has become a flashpoint for the mounting anger at the erosion of Tibetan culture.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, founded a government in exile in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala after being offered refuge there.

He remains revered in China’s Tibetan areas, and by a large international following, but is vilified as a “separatist” by China’s communist authorities.

The Dalai Lama has long denied he is seeking an independent Tibet, saying he only desires greater autonomy for his homeland under Chinese rule.

Tibetan government-in-exile Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay has urged the US to step up pressure on China after the self--immolation protests.

Sangay, who was elected to the government-in-exile’s new post as the Dalai Lama tries to ease out of his political role, met lawmakers in Washington on Thursday.

“I think it’s high time that the international community realizes the gravity and the urgency of the situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, a US lawmaker threatened on Thursday to strip Nepal of its millions of dollars in US aid unless it permits refugees fleeing Chinese rule in Tibet to transit through the country.

Nepal is the main route for Tibetans who seek to go into exile, but the country has increasingly cracked down on Tibetans’ movement and activities out of fear of upsetting its giant neighbor to the north.

US Representative Frank Wolf, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee that determines US funding, said he would try to block funding to Nepal unless it grants exit visas to Tibetans who seek refuge in the US.

“We’re not just going to cut them, we’re going to zero them out,” said Wolf, an outspoken critic of China.

“If they’re not willing to do it, then they don’t share our values and if they don’t share our values, we do not want to share our -dollars,” he told a congressional hearing on Tibet.

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