Man Self-Immolates Near Lhasa

A young man near the Tibetan capital sets himself on fire in the 43rd self-immolation in protest against Chinese rule.
2012-07-09
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A view of Tibet's Damshung county, Sept. 3, 2009.
AFP

A Tibetan man from a village outside of Lhasa set himself on fire at the weekend in protest against Chinese rule, sources told RFA, in a rare self-immolation in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The man, in his 20’s, shouted slogans in support of Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama as he staged the fiery protest in the seat of Damshung county (in Chinese, Dangxiong) in Lhasa prefecture on Saturday.

“He did it around 1 p.m. on July 7 in front of an old community hall in Damshung. He was able to walk about 100 meters (110 yards) with his body on fire before falling down,” a source in Lhasa city told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He called for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” the source said.

Police took him away from the scene to get him medical treatment, the source said.

Condition unknown

His identity and condition could not be confirmed, though he is believed to be 22 or 23 years old and a resident of Damshung’s Chode village.

“The police arrived and took him to a local hospital in Damshung but they could not treat him there, so he was rushed to a hospital in Lhasa city,” one source said.

“Ninety percent of his body was reported to be burnt.”

A Tibetan in exile with contacts in Damshung said police had prevented others from seeing the protestor and telling others about his condition.

“No one was allowed to see him after he was rushed to the [Damshung] hospital and at the same time some were warned not to give information to outside sources,” the source said.

“At this point, we don't know where he is or whether he is dead or alive.”  

An officer at the Damshung police station contacted by RFA denied the incident.

Authorities have tightened security in Damshung since the incident, the exile source said, citing contacts in the region.

“Right now the security is extremely tight in Damshung. All phone lines are cut off and those in Lhasa city cannot reach their contacts in Damshung,” he said on Sunday.

43 self-immolations

The Damshung incident brings to 43 the total number of self-immolations reported since February 2009 as Tibetans challenge Chinese policies which they say have robbed them of their rights.

Of the 43, the Damshung man is the fourth to self-immolate in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).  

All of the other self-immolations have occurred in Tibetan-populated areas of the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu.

The burnings have intensified over the past year and resulted in a Chinese security clampdown across the region.

The authorities have detained hundreds of monks from monasteries and jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights, exile sources say.

Previous self-immolator

Meanwhile, the condition of one of the two men who self-immolated in central Lhasa in May—in the only incident reported in Tibet’s capital city—remains unclear.

RFA previously reported that Thargyal, who self-immolated along with another young man sources identified as Tseten Dorjee in front of the Jokhang Temple on May 27, had died Saturday evening after succumbing to his injuries.

But subsequent information indicated that he remains under intensive care.

“On July 7, Thargyal … had all the indications that he died. However the medical team at the police hospital in Lhasa conducted three hours of emergency recovery treatment and he recovered,” a source in Lhasa told RFA Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Since the two men self-immolated in Lhasa, authorities have tightened security in the city, closing down a hotel where the two men had stayed and a restaurant where they had worked, another source there said.

"Security restrictions in Lhasa were increased after the incident and now the level of surveillance and restriction is still intense,” he said.

He added that the restrictions had been tightened ahead of the Dalai Lama’s 77th birthday on July 6 and targeted those from the Tibetan-populated areas neighboring the TAR.

“Tibetans who are not residents of Lhasa need five different permits to stay there and the restrictions are more intense on those Tibetans who come from the Kham and Amdo regions,” the source said.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.