A Tibetan teenager who set himself ablaze this week to protest Chinese rule is in critical condition after Chinese security forces doused the flames and took him away, according to sources in exile and Tibet.
He was identified as former monk Rigdzin Dorje, aged 19.
Dorje set fire to himself on Wednesday at a school in the main town of Ngaba county, in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture in Sichuan.
He was the 21st Tibetan to have self-immolated in a wave of protests in ethnic Tibetan regions of China since March 2009 as Beijing stepped up a crackdown on monasteries.
“He was taken from the site of his protest by soldiers and police, first to the county hospital and later to Barkham,” the prefectural capital, India-based monks Kanyag Tsering and Losang Yeshe said, citing contacts in the region.
“As of the night of Feb. 8, he was believed to be on the verge of death, Tsering and Yeshe said in a statement. “But no clear information on whether he is still alive is available.”
'A humble person'
Tsering and Yeshe described Rigdzin Dorje, nicknamed Rigpe, as a son of the Garpa Tsongko family in the No. 2 Division of Me’uruma township in Ngaba county.
“Rigpe is the youngest of six children,” Tsering and Yeshe said. “His father’s name is Tsongko, and his mother’s name is Dungkar.”
“He is a humble person, and when he was a monk he used to enjoy looking after pigeons. He is a kind person, and was a hard and persistent worker.”
Rigdzin Dorje had been a monk at the nearby Kirti monastery when younger, but had left the monastery in 2010 and had lived at home since then, they said.
The latest self-immolation protest came five days after sources said that three Tibetans set themselves on fire in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county, also in Sichuan province.
Serthar was among three counties in Sichuan province where Tibetans protested against Chinese rule two weeks ago in which rights and exile groups believe at least six were killed and 60 injured, some critically.
The other counties were Draggo (in Chinese, Luhuo) and Dzamthang (in Chinese, Rangtang).
Official Chinese media reported only two Tibetans were killed in the incidents after "mobs" armed with, guns, knives, and stones attacked local police.
Tensions have risen in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and in Tibetan-populated areas of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces following a recent wave of protests against Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader.
Chinese authorities have ramped up security across Tibetan areas following the protests, sources said.
Meanwhile, three officials in Tibet have been sacked for failing to crack down on unrest in the region, official media reported Thursday.
The sackings, according to the Tibet Daily, came after an official in Sichuan pledged to dismiss any official found lacking in efforts to "safeguard stability," a term that routinely refers to stamping down on unrest.
Chen Quanguo, Communist Party head of Tibet, revealed the sackings at a meeting where he sought increased pressure on supporters of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the newspaper reported.
Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for the tense situation in the Tibetan-populated areas, saying he is encouraging the self-immolations, which run contrary to Buddhist teachings.
But the Dalai Lama blamed China's "ruthless and illogical" policy toward Tibet.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.