Radio Free Asia on May 27, 2012, reported that two young Tibetan men set themselves on fire in Lhasa in protest against Chinese rule—the first self-immolations reported in the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to sources. Excerpts below:
They burned themselves in front of Jokhang Temple in central Lhasa—reputedly the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan pilgrims—and were swiftly bundled away by security forces who arrived in several vehicles and cleared the area within 15 minutes, the sources said.
One of them died and the other was injured, state media reported.
“They used a firemen’s hose to douse the fire on the two,” a Tibetan man from Lhasa told RFA, saying no one was permitted to go near the site.
The dead man was identified as Tobgye Tseten, from China’s Gansu province while the injured, Dargye, from Sichuan province, is in stable condition in hospital, state news agency Xinhua reported.
One source said they were monks and aged between 19 and 22 but the details could not be independently verified.
They were believed to be among a few Tibetan youths who gathered to protest against Chinese rule outside the temple located on Barkhor Square, the sources said.
One eyewitness said tourists particularly were kept away from the site of the self-immolations.
A Tibetan living in exile said huge flames engulfed the self-immolators and they may not have survived, citing contacts in the region.
“Lhasa city is now filled with police and para-military forces and the situation is very tense,” one source said.
Unconfirmed reports said Tibetans gathered to protest after the burnings and that there were more arrests.
This is the second self-immolation incident in the Tibetan Autonomous Region amid protests by Tibetans against Beijing’s rule and calls for the return of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, exile sources said.
Prior to the incident, there had been 35 Tibetan self-immolations reported since March 2009. Thirty-four of them had occurred in Tibetan-populated Chinese provinces.
The self-immolations came as Tibetans flock to Lhasa to mark the auspicious Buddhist month of Saka Dawa commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.
Self-immolation protests which intensified over the last year had also sparked demonstrations in Tibetan-populated Chinese provinces criticizing Chinese policies, which Tibetans say are discriminatory and have robbed them of their rights, and calling for greater freedom and for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
The Dalai Lama has blamed Beijing’s “totalitarian” and “unrealistic” policies for the wave of self-immolations, saying the time has come for the Chinese authorities to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibetan problem.
Aside from detaining hundreds of monks from monasteries, Chinese authorities have jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights, exile sources said.