A Tibetan monk set himself on fire in western China and was beaten by security forces as they put out the flames, a rights group said, marking the latest in a series of dramatic protests against China’s handling of its vast Tibetan areas.
Lobsang Gyatso, a 19-year-old monk from the Kirti monastery in Sichuan Province’s Aba Prefecture, set himself ablaze on Aba City’s main street on Monday afternoon, the London-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said.
Security forces beat Gyatso while extinguishing the flames, then took him away, the group said in an online statement posted late on Monday. It was not immediately clear whether he survived.
Two Tibetans who tried to help Gyatso were severely beaten by police, ICT’s statement said.
Aba Prefecture has been the scene of numerous protests over the past several years against the Chinese government. Most are led by monks who are fiercely loyal to Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled the Himalayan region in 1959 amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule and is reviled by Beijing.
According to ICT, 20 Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople have set themselves on fire in China over the past year, with at least 13 dying from their injuries. The self-immolations have occurred with increasing frequency in recent weeks and most have taken place in Sichuan’s remote and mountainous Tibetan areas.
An official with the Chinese Communist Party’s local propaganda department in Aba said he was unaware of the latest case.
He referred media to Xinhua news agency or the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for reports about self-immolations, saying that only they were authorized to release such news.