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Tibetan man in his 50s sets himself on fire to protest Chinese rule, rights group says


BEIJING (AP): A Tibetan man in his 50s is believed to have died after setting himself on fire Monday in the latest protest against Chinese rule over the Himalayan region, a London-based rights group said.

Free Tibet said the man identified as Dhondup set fire to himself near the prayer hall at the remote Labrang Monastery in China’s northwestern Gansu province.
The monastery is one of the most important outside of Tibet and was the site of numerous protests by monks following deadly ethnic riots in Tibet in 2008 that were the most sustained Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades.

Free Tibet said Monday’s self-immolation was the first to take place there, and that there have been heavy restrictions in place in the area in recent months.

Citing a witness, it said the monastery manager and other monks prevented police from taking Dhondup’s body away.

Calls to the government in Xiahe County, where the monastery is located, the Xiahe Communist Propaganda Department and Xiahe Public Security Bureau rang unanswered.

Dozens of Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March 2011 in ethnic Tibetan areas of China in protest over what activists say is Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in the region. Many have called for the return of their spiritual leader, the exiled Dalai Lama. The government has confirmed some, but not all, of the self-immolations.

“Tibetan protests are escalating,” Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement. “Dhondup is the eighth Tibetan in the last month alone who has risked his life to protest Chinese rule; seven of the eight have died.”

She said China’s government could recognize that Tibetan demands for freedom cannot be extinguished by force and that it “must enter into meaningful dialogue with Tibetan representatives, supported by the international community.”

Chinese authorities routinely deny Tibetan claims of repression and have accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of encouraging the self-immolations. The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in India say they oppose all violence.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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