A young Tibetan studying in India set himself ablaze on Friday at the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Varanasi in a protest calling for freedom for his homeland, Tibetan sources said.
Tenzin Choeying, aged about 20, self-immolated at around 9:00 a.m. in the entrance of a residence hall after dousing himself with kerosene, witnesses told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He ran [a short distance] and shouted “Victory to Tibet,” said Chime Namgyal, president of the Varanasi chapter of the Tibetan Youth Congress activist group, who later visited the burned student in a nearby hospital.
Several students and Indian staff quickly ran to Choeying to put out the fire, another source said.
Choeying, who is now in critical condition with burns over 60 percent of his body, is being treated in a hospital in Varanasi, Namgyal told RFA.
“The doctor cannot guarantee his chances for survival, but he is able to speak,” Namgyal said, adding that Choeying said he had burned himself because “there are no rights for Tibetans in Tibet.”
Choeying was especially concerned that Tibetans under Chinese rule should be allowed learn their own language, Namgyal said.
Choeying launched his protest while Lobsang Sangay, president of Tibet’s India-based exile government the Central Tibetan Administration, was giving a speech to university students, but the protest was not linked to Sangay’s presence on campus, Choeying said from his hospital bed.
“The Sikyong is doing a great job, and I fully appreciate him,” Choeying said, using the Tibetan title for Sangay’s political role in exile. “I burned myself only for Tibet.”
Choeying’s parents, residents of the Kollegal Tibetan Settlement in South India, were informed of their son’s protest and condition and are expected to arrive soon to see him at the hospital in Varanasi, Namgyal said.
In a statement released July 14, the London-based advocacy group Free Tibet called Choeying’s protest further evidence of the ”deep and whole-hearted opposition that Tibetans have to China’s continued occupation of their country and to the human rights abuses that prop this occupation up.”
Both inside and outside Tibet, young Tibetans “feel a sense of injustice that drives them to act and make sacrifices that many of us can barely comprehend,” Free Tibet said.
Self-immolation protests by Tibetans living outside Tibetan-populated areas of China are rare, while a total of 150 have now set themselves ablaze in Tibet and Tibetan-populated counties in western China.
Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.
Reported by Sangye Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.