Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Tibetan protester sets himself on fire

AFP, BEIJING

A Tibetan man burned himself to death in protest against Chinese rule, reports and Western rights groups said yesterday, bringing the total to have set themselves on fire to at least 101.

US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) said the man, Lobsang Namgyal, who it described as a former monk from the Kirti monastery, self-immolated last week near a police station in Aba Prefecture, a Tibetan area of Sichuan Province in southern China.

“He ran toward the police station, calling out slogans with his body on fire, and died at the scene,” it cited exiled Tibetan monks as saying. “Police then cremated his remains and handed them over to his family.”

The 37-year-old was one of a family of four brothers and four sisters and was detained and harassed last year by police, it cited the exiles as saying.

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet described him as a monk and said he was “known as a serious and exceptional scholar.”

The first Tibetan to set himself on fire was also from Kirti monastery, it added.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country’s majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

The report takes the number of ethnic Tibetans to have set themselves on fire since 2009 to 101, after an exile turned himself into a ball of fire on Wednesday in front of the Boudhanath Stupa, a Buddhist monument in Kathmandu, Nepal. At least 84 have died, tallies show.

Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based campaign group Free Tibet, said: “This grim milestone should be a source of shame to the Chinese authorities who are responsible and to the world leaders who have yet to show any leadership in response to the ongoing crisis in Tibet. China employs brutal repression, propaganda and bribery to no avail: Protest and resistance will continue as long as the Tibetan people are denied their freedom.”

Beijing rejects criticism of its rule, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and pointing to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernization and a better standard of living to Tibet.

Authorities have sought to crack down on the gruesome protests by arresting those it accuses of inciting them and prosecuting them for murder, and have embarked on a major publicity drive on the issue in recent weeks.

Beijing routinely accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his “clique” of inciting such acts to push a separatist agenda.

Meanwhile, the Tibetan man who set himself on fire in Kathmandu on Wednesday has died at a Tribhuwan University Teaching Hospital, police in Nepal said yesterday.

The man died Wednesday night, hours after he self-immolated, police spokesman Keshav Adhikari said. Police are still trying to identify the man, who appeared to be about 21 years old, and no one has claimed the body yet, he said.

Additional reporting by AP

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