Police in far west China beat a Tibetan man to death during a clash that broke out after two Tibetans set themselves on fire, a US broadcaster said yesterday, in the worst flaring of violence in the region in months.
The violence occurred on Monday in Sichuan Province’s Aba Prefecture, which has emerged as a center of political activism and the site of dozens of self-immolations in the past few years.
The area, home to the influential Kirti Monastery, has been flooded with security forces, but they have been unable to stop the immolation protests.
Radio Free Asia said in an e-mailed statement that a Kirti monk named Lungtok and another man, identified only as Tashi, set themselves on fire on Monday evening. It cited a Tibetan in the Aba area who was not identified by name and other unidentified people inside Tibet.
The report said a large number of police tried to clear the immolation site and ended up clashing with Tibetans.
It said one man was beaten to death, but gave no other details. There was no way to independently confirm the report.
A woman who answered the telephone at the Aba police department said there had been no immolations or confrontations between police and Tibetan locals.
“Nothing like that has happened,” said the woman, who like many bureaucrats in China refused to give her name.
The phone of the local Chinese Communist Party Propaganda Office rang unanswered.
A man who answered the phone at the Kirti monastery management committee office hung up when asked to comment.
Radio Free Asia said the two men who self-immolated were taken to a hospital by Chinese security forces, but that their condition was unknown.
Nearly 50 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China since 2009, with many shouting anti-government slogans and calling for the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. At least 17 were monks or former monks from Kirti, according to an earlier tally from the International Campaign for Tibet.
‧ Radio Free Asia said a monk and another man set themselves on fire on Monday evening in Aba Prefecture, in China’s Sichuan Province.
‧ No confirmation was available from local Chinese offices.
‧ Almost 50 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze in China since 2009.
‧ There are conflicting reports from rights groups that say either two or three other Tibetans set themselves alight over the past week.
Monday’s clash with police marked the worst flaring of violence in Sichuan since a series of protests in January that Tibetan activist groups say left six Tibetans dead. The Chinese government said at the time that two rioters were killed.
Radio Free Asia reported that beside Lungtok and the other man who set themselves on fire on Monday, as many as many as three Tibetans set themselves ablaze in the past week, a surge highlighted by a rights group as a sustained campaign against Beijing’s grip on religious freedom.
Phelim Kine, senior Asia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the frequency of the Tibetan self-immolations is “a reflection of the ever-deepening frustration and despair” that many Tibetans feel about hopes for reform and protection for their culture, religion and language.
“We don’t see any inkling of such changes in the short to medium term, instead we see a hardening of position by the Chinese government,” Kine said.
“This is an unfortunate trend that will continue till we head into the leadership transition,” the Hong Kong-based researcher said.
In the past week, the International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington, reported two self-immolations, while the UK-based Free Tibet said there were three incidents in the same time period.