An 18-year-old nun set herself alight in China’s restive southwest, rights groups said yesterday, the latest in a spate of self-immolations among ethnic Tibetans protesting against Beijing’s rule.
The woman — a member of a Buddhist nunnery in Aba Prefecture in Sichuan Province, which borders Tibet — set herself on fire on Saturday, Free Tibet and the International Campaign for Tibet said.
London-based Free Tibet said the latest incident brought the number of Tibetans who have self-immolated over the past year to 22, though Chinese state media have disputed some of the previous claims of incidents.
The nun from the Mamae Nunnery shouted slogans of protest against the Chinese government before setting herself alight, the rights groups said in separate statements.
She is believed to have survived, they said. Her name was given as Tenzin Choedron, or Choezin.
Soldiers and police quickly took her away and then later sealed off the nunnery, the rights groups said. Free Tibet said this was the second nun from Mamae to set herself on fire, following another who died in October last year.
A police officer in Aba declined to comment.
China has stepped up security in Tibet and areas inhabited by ethnic Tibetans following a series of self-immolations and protests against Chinese rule, some of which have turned violent.
Security has also been tightened as next month marks the anniversary of anti-Chinese protests in 2008 that started in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, before spreading to other areas.
At least two people were killed last month in clashes between police and locals in Sichuan, which has large populations of ethnic Tibetans, many of whom complain of oppression under Chinese rule.
Security forces on Thursday shot dead two Tibetan brothers who were on the run after protesting against Chinese rule, according to US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia.
Beijing has accused overseas organizations of seeking independence for Tibet and blamed the Dalai Lama — Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader — for the unrest.
Following the violent incidents, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) on Friday pledged religious freedom and cultural protection in Tibet.
“We will place more importance on improving the lives of our Tibetan compatriots ... and in preserving the freedom of religious belief of Tibetans,” he said.
Free Tibet called on the international community to do more about China’s actions.
“A handful of carefully crafted statements is no longer enough — now is the time for concerted international action,” the group said in the statement.
The US said on Friday it would raise concerns about human rights among other issues during a closely watched visit in the coming week by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), who is likely to be the country’s next leader.
“It is an area of grave concern for us to witness the increase of tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang,” said Danny Russel, US President Barack Obama’s top adviser on Asia.