Activists Call for Global Pressure on China After Tibetan’s Suicide

Posted July 17th, 2012 at 4:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The London-based rights group Free Tibet says the death of an 18-year-old Tibetan monk in a self-immolation protest in southwest China Tuesday should prompt international pressure on Beijing to “let Tibetans decide their own future.”

In a written statement, Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said Tuesday's suicide of Lobsang Lozin in Sichuan province shows that Tibetan calls for freedom now are “overwhelming.” Activists have reported more than 40 self-immolations since 2009 by Tibetans protesting what they see as repressive government policies. Some of the self-immolations have resulted in death.

Tibetan activists said Lobsang Lozin set himself on fire at a monastery in Sichuan's Ngaba and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, and walked toward a local government office shouting slogans. A representative of the Tsodun Kirti monastery told VOA that the monk did not make it far.

“When he first lit himself on fire, he was shouting slogans. Some say he walked around 100 steps towards the Chinese communist party office in Ngaba. Yet, we cannot confirm this. And then he fell down and died.”

Monastery representative Kanyag Tsering was speaking from the Indian city of Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile. The exiled administration expressed “deep concern” about Lobsang Lozin's death. It said Chinese authorities sent a large contingent of armed police to the monastery's town, Barkham, in an apparent bid to prevent further unrest.

But activists said local Tibetans blocked a bridge to prevent the police from reaching the monastery. Kanyag Tsering said the resident monks moved quickly to retrieve the teenager's body.

“The monks have cleaned his body, brought it in the monastery, and said prayers. The unusual thing is that they are preparing to cremate his body tonight. According to Tibetan custom, they would usually keep the body for a few days and cremate it on an appropriate day. But since they are cremating it tonight, it shows that the monks fear that Chinese officials will take away his body.”

Activists posted a photo on the Internet purporting to show Lobsang Lozin on fire. Two other monks from the same monastery died after setting themselves on fire on March 30. The monastery is one of the region's largest, with more than 300 monks.

There was no immediate comment on the incident from the Chinese government. Beijing has said Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and higher living standards resulting from China's economic development. But, Tibetans have long accused Beijing of suppressing and eroding their culture by flooding Tibetan regions with Han Chinese, the county's main ethnic group.

(Graham White and VOA Tibetan Service's Dorje Tseten contributed to this report.)