10th Tibetan Buddhist Self-Immolates in Southwestern China

Posted October 25th, 2011 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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A leading Tibetan exile group says another Tibetan Buddhist has set himself on fire in southwestern China, in the latest in a string of self-immolations aimed at protesting Chinese rule in the region.

The incident, reported Tuesday by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, is the 10th such self-immolation by protesting Buddhists reported in Sichuan province this year.

The latest protest occurred about 150 kilometers from the flashpoint Kirti monastery where the nine previous self-immolations took place.

Witnesses to the latest protest say the monk was engulfed in flames at the Kardze monastery as he shouted calls for the return from exile of the Dalai Lama and the reunification of the Tibetan people. His condition could not be verified.

China last week accused the Dalai Lama of encouraging monks to set themselves ablaze by glorifying the protests rather than condemning them. Beijing's latest accusations — strongly rejected by Tibetan Buddhists and Western governments — came a day after the Dalai Lama led a prayer vigil for the protesters from his place of exile in northern India.

Analysts say Sichuan's Aba and Ganzi prefectures are home to 1.2 million Tibetans and some 90 million ethnic Han Chinese. Tensions were heightened in 1996, when Beijing subjected all monks at monasteries in the region to “re-education” programs and other controls that still remain in place today. VOA's Tibetan service chief Losang Gyatso says all local schools started by a monastery in Kansu prefecture were forcibly shut down at that time. He says those schools were meant to provide basic education to rural children who otherwise had little or no access to any education.

Since then, there have been a series of crackdowns on monasteries in the region, including the forced disappearances from Kirti of some 300 monks earlier this year. The disappearances occurred weeks after a self-immolation protest at the monastery in March. Beijing later said local authorities had started conducting “legal education” of the monks at undisclosed locations because they had disobeyed Tibetan Buddhism rules and disrupted local order.

The U.S. State Department said at the time that China's actions were inconsistent with freedom of religion and human rights. China responded that the United States should “respect facts” and stop making “irresponsible remarks.”