China hit by new Tibet self-immolation protest
BEIJING – A former monk set himself on fire near a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in southwest China, rights groups said Sunday, in the latest protest against perceived religious repression in the region.
Norbu Dathul, 19, called out “Tibet needs freedom” and “His holiness the Dalai Lama must return” before setting himself alight on Saturday in the main market of Aba, London-based Free Tibet said, citing exiled Tibetan sources.
Police extinguished the flames and took the former monk away, the activist group said, adding that “his current well-being and whereabouts are unknown”.
The latest incident – confirmed by another rights group with contacts in the region – takes the number of people reported to have set themselves on fire to eight this year.
“It provides further evidence that Tibetans now feel that setting fire to themselves is their only recourse,” said Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden.
Brigden said the international community must “hold China accountable for its gross human rights violations in Tibet and demonstrate a genuine determination to end this oppression”.
AFP calls to the local government and police in Aba went unanswered. A woman at the local hospital said it “wasn’t clear” if the man had been taken there for treatment.
The restive Tibetan Buddhist monastery has been the scene of repeated protests, according to rights groups, and previous self-immolations in the region have triggered crackdowns.
The number of monks at Kirti monastery has fallen to about 600 from 2,500 in March due to “compulsory patriotic re-education, detentions and expulsions,” Free Tibet has said previously, citing sources in the region.
Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they view as increasing domination by the country’s majority Han ethnic group, and the Kirti monastery has become a flashpoint for the growing anger at the erosion of their culture.
China, however, says that Tibetan living standards have improved markedly over the years, thanks to billions of dollars in Chinese investment.
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