A Tibetan monk from the restive Kirti monastery in Sichuan province burned himself to death on Saturday in protest against Chinese rule and to mark the fifth anniversary of a bloody Chinese crackdown on Tibetans in the area, sources said.
Lobsang Thogme, 28, torched himself at the monastery in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county, which has been the epicenter of the Tibetan self-immolation protests against Chinese rule raging since February 2009.
His protest raises to 108 the number of Tibetans who have burned themselves while challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan regions and calling for the return from exile of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Lobsang Thogme emerged burning from his room at the monastery carrying a Tibetan Buddhist prayer flag, according to monks at the Kirti exile monastery in India's Dharamsala hill town, citing local contacts.
He ran a short distance until he collapsed just before the entrance of the monastery, according to monks Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe.
Died in hospital
Fellow monks rushed Lobsang Thogme to the county hospital but he died before arriving.
"Before he could reach the main entrance of the monastery, he collapsed and fell to the ground," exiled monks Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe said in a statement to RFA's Tibetan Service.
They said that Lobsang Thogme's body has been taken away by Chinese police.
He self-immolated in "protest against wrong Chinese policies in Tibet," they said.
The burning was aimed at marking the fifth anniversary of a March 16, 2008 crackdown on Ngaba in which Chinese police fired on a crowd of Tibetans, killing at least 10, including one monk, they said.
The crackdown had agitated Tibetans in the area and helped spark the Tibetan self-immolations, sources said.
On Feb. 27, 2009, a Kirti monk in his mid-20's set the stage for the fiery protests when he self-immolated after the authorities cancelled prayer ceremonies at his monastery. He was shot dead by security forces as he was burning, reports have said.
Two years later, Chinese security forces launched a major clampdown on Kirti monastery and took away hundreds of monks, fueling the self-immolations.
On March 16, 2011, Phuntsog, a 20-year old Kirti monk, burned himself to death to mark the third anniversary of the Ngaba crackdown.
Exactly a year later, Lobsang Tsultrim, a 20-year-old Tibetan monk also from the Kirti monastery, set himself on fire and shouted slogans of protest against the Chinese government along the Ngaba main road but was taken away by police and later died.
The main road in Ngaba was renamed last year by Tibetans as "Heroes Street" after it became the epicenter of the burnings.
Chinese authorities have recently tightened controls in Tibetan-populated areas to check the self-immolation protests, arresting and jailing more than a dozen Tibetans who they have accused of being linked to the burning protests. Some were jailed up to 15 years.
Human rights groups have criticized the Chinese authorities for criminalizing the burning protests.
The authorities have also deployed paramilitary forces and have restricted communications in the areas where self-immolations have occurred.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.