Two Tibetans who tried to self-immolate in protest over Chinese rule have been detained by security forces as Beijing offers rewards to the public for tipping off attempts by Tibetans to set themselves ablaze, sources said Wednesday.
The attempted self-immolations were reported in China's northwest Gansu province and southwest Sichuan province, both of which are Tibetan-populated areas besieged by protests against Beijing's rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.
On Wednesday, a handicapped Tibetan, identified as Tsekhog of Gansu's Luchu (in Chinese, Luqu) county, attempted to self-immolate by showering his body with kerosene and also drinking the fuel, a Tibetan from the area said.
"Before he could light his body on fire, the security force arrived and took him away.”
Tibetans suspect that a local resident, in the hope of getting a reward, had alerted the police about Tsekhog's plan to self-immolate in front of the Ala township center.
Local authorities had promised residents a reward of 5,000 yuan (U.S. $832) if they alert police and give "credible" information about potential self-immolations, the Tibetan from Luchu said.
There have been 30 Tibetan self-immolations so far in protest over Beijing's rule in Tibetan-populated areas, triggering ramped-up security across Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai provinces as well as in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
In the other self-immolation attempt in Sichuan's Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county last week, a 17-year-old Tibetan student, Thinley, fainted after drinking a large amount of kerosene before he could set himself on fire.
"[H]e fainted and fell on the ground when he drank a large quantity of kerosene oil. The police who were present in the area took him away. His present condition is not known,” a Tibetan from the county said of the attempt on March 12.
Thinley, from Washa village, had written about his plan to self-immolate in a notebook, according to his classmates, the Tibetan said.
Thinley called for upholding Tibetan language rights and unity among Tibetans and appealed to Tibetan youths not to follow in his footsteps and burn themselves, he said, according to his notes.
The latest self-immolation was reported on March 17 when a 44-year-old Tibetan farmer named Sonam Thargyal burned himself to death in China’s northwestern Qinghai province, drawing several thousand Tibetans to his funeral.
End burnings call
The wave of self-immolations since February 2009 prompted a call two weeks ago from well-known Tibetan blogger Woeser and senior Tibetan religious leader Arjia Rinpoche to end the burnings, saying that Tibetans opposed to Chinese rule should “stay alive to struggle and push forward” toward their goals.
Lobsang Sangay, the head of Tibet’s exile government in Dharamsala, India, said that while he strongly discourages self-immolations, the fault for the protests “lies squarely with [China’s] hardline leaders in Beijing.”
Sangay also accused Beijing of trying over the last half century to “annihilate the Tibetan people and its culture.”
The Chinese government, however, has blamed the Dalai Lama for the self-immolations, accusing the 76-year-old Buddhist leader and his followers of plotting to create “turmoil” in Tibetan-inhabited areas.
Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.