Eighth self-immolation rocks Tibetan town in China
Oct 16, 2011, 6:55 GMT
Beijing - A former Tibetan Buddhist monk has self-immolated in a restive area of south-western China, the eighth such protest this year, Tibetan exile groups said on Sunday.
The monk set fire to himself around midday Saturday in Aba town in Sichuan province, shouting slogans including 'Freedom in Tibet' and 'Return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet,' the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy quoted witnesses as saying.
Norbu Damdul, aged about 19, suffered serious burns but was still alive after police extinguished the fire and took him away, said the group, which is based in the Indian town of Dharamsala.
London-based Free Tibet published a similar report on its website.
Both groups said Norbu Damdul had been a monk at the Kirti monastery near Aba, which is known as Ngaba in Tibetan, until June 2010.
'This is the eighth self-immolation in protest at the persecution of Tibetans under Chinese rule since March this year,' Stephanie Bridgen, the international director of Free Tibet, said in a statement.
'It provides further evidence that Tibetans now feel that setting fire to themselves is their only recourse,' Bridgen said.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said self-immolation was seen as the 'only available form of protest' in the face of 'repressive policies put in place by Chinese government authorities' in Aba, especially at the monastery.
'Unless local authorities ease the restrictions they have placed on local people, there are serious concerns that self-immolations may continue to occur more frequently,' the group said.
It said two more former Kirti monks died last week following their joint self-immolation in Aba on October 7.
Exiled Tibetans held a rally on Friday in Dharamsala to urge the Chinese government to end its crackdown in Aba.
US-based Human Rights Watch also appealed last week for China to end its 'excessive restrictions' on Tibetan monastic and lay communities in Sichuan province.
Since widespread anti-Chinese protests erupted in Sichuan and other Tibetan areas of China in early 2008, the government had used 'brutal security raids, arbitrary detentions of monks, increased surveillance within monasteries, and a permanent police presence inside monasteries to monitor religious activities,' Human Rights Watch said.
In another sign of unrest, about 200 Tibetans protested earlier this month in Sichuan's Seda county, known as Serthar in Tibetan.
They called for the Dalai Lama's return and demanded freedom for Tibet after a large Tibetan flag and a photograph of the Dalai Lama were removed from a public building in Seda and thrown into the street, reports said.
The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's highest spiritual leader, has lived in exile since he fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet.
Read more about Tibet