Chinese authorities arrested four Tibetan students Tuesday after opening fire and suppressing a mass student demonstration in Qinghai province a day earlier, sources said, as another Tibetan burned himself to death in neighboring Sichuan province in protest over Chinese rule.
Five of 20 wounded Tibetan students following the Chinese crackdown on the student protests in Chabcha (in Chinese, Gonghe) county were in critical condition in hospital, the sources said.
More than 1,000 students, led by those from the Tsolho Medical Institute, had protested Monday over the release of an official Chinese booklet which ridiculed the Tibetan language as irrelevant and condemned the series of self-immolation protests against Beijing's rule as acts of "stupidity," local residents had said.
"The armed security forces fired in the air and then fired several tear gas shots on the protesting students," a Tibetan source in exile told RFA's Tibetan service, citing local students.
"Many were beaten and several students were injured from the beating and smoke inhalation. About 20 of them were hospitalized for treatment and among them five students are reported to be in critical condition."
Free Tibet, a London-based advocacy group, said armed security forces beat the peaceful protesters with rifle butts.
Police detained four of the student protestors, sources said, identifying two of them as Wangdu Tsering and Mama.
The Chinese booklet that raised the ire of the students was entitled "10 Real Views of Tsolho Area" and reflected the local government of the Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture's perception of the Tibetan language and the burning protests, according to the sources. Chabcha county is in Tsolho prefecture.
The students burned the books during the protests and called for "equality among nationalities and freedom to study the Tibetan language," one source said, citing local contacts. "They called for an investigation into this issue and respect for justice."
The students were also agitated by statements by the Chinese authorities blaming the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, as "the main cause for the split between Tibetans and Chinese," the source said.
Aside from opposing Chinese rule, most of the Tibetan protesters, especially the self-immolators, have pressed for the return of the Dalai Lama, who is living in exile in India.
Self-immolation in Kyangtsa
In the latest self-immolation protest in Sichuan's Ngaba (Aba) prefecture, a Tibetan man, Kalsang Kyab, burned himself to death on Tuesday in front of the local government office in Kyangtsa town in Dzoege (Ruo'ergai) county, shouting slogans against Chinese rule and hailing the Dalai Lama.
It brought the total number of self-immolations to 86 since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.
Kalsang Kyab, 24, self-immolated near the local Kyangtsa government office, shouting, among other slogans, "Long Live the Dalai Lama," according to Dharamsala-based exile monks Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi.
"Before approaching the doorsteps of the local government office, he first doused his body with kerosene and shouted slogans. As he arrived near the door of the government office, he lit the fire and even after that he continued to shout several slogans," they said.
A few days earlier, Kalsang Kyab had told some people that he had planned to self-immolate but none of them took it seriously, they said.
Other details, such as heightened security measures after the self-immolation protest, were not immediately available following a clampdown in communication by the Chinese authorities.
"There is communication problem as phone lines are cut or not working and no response is coming from inside Tibet. It is difficult to confirm details," Lobsang Tsultrim, a former Ngaba resident now living in India's hill town Dharamsala, told RFA.
But Free Tibet, a London-based advocacy group, said Tibetans in Ngaba were going into hiding as military personnel arrived in Kyangtsa township in response to the latest self-immolation.
“Free Tibet has well-founded concerns for the safety of the people of [Kyangtsa] township. China is responding with disproportionate and sometimes lethal force to protests across Tibet," said Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden.
"Only yesterday, more than 20 Tibetan students ended up in hospital, several requiring emergency treatment, after armed security forces beat peaceful protesters with rifle butts. It is no wonder that the people of Ngaba are going into hiding. "
Reported by RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Benpa Topgyal. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.