A 19-year-old Tibetan monk set himself ablaze on Monday in China’s Sichuan province as protests against Chinese rule in Tibetan areas escalated and Beijing poured more security forces into the region to keep a lid on the situation, local and exile sources and rights groups said.
It was the second self-immolation by a Tibetan teenager in two days and brought to 24 the number of Tibetans who have burned themselves in protest since February 2009 when Beijing stepped up a clampdown on monasteries and rounded up hundreds of monks.
Lobsang Gyatso, a monk from the restive Kirti Monastery in Ngaba (Aba, in Chinese) prefecture, set fire to himself in Ngaba town in the afternoon and was beaten and taken away by Chinese security forces, according to sources.
“While burning, he walked along the road to the county office and shouted slogans,” India-based exile monks Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe said in a statement sent to to RFA.
“At that time, armed security officers and special forces arrived and extinguished the flames, beating him as he burned,” they said.
Two other young Tibetans and a monk standing nearby were also assaulted by police, they said, adding that one of the two young men was able to escape with the help of a crowd that had gathered.
The other, who was taken away, was seen to be bleeding badly from injuries to his head and arm, they said.
Following the incident, Chinese security forces set up checkpoints around the town and were searching residents, according to London-based Free Tibet, an advocacy group.
Ngaba town has been the scene of repeated demonstrations against rule by Beijing during the last year.
Elsewhere, about 200 Tibetans protested at the weekend in Kyegudo town in nearby Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) prefecture, while posters calling for independence for Tibet were put up in Kardze town in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, sources said.
“Chinese security forces reportedly closed the main square [in Kyegudo] and the military surrounded it. There are unconfirmed reports that some protestors were taken away,” Free Tibet said.
In Kardze town, Chinese police detained a Tibetan youth on Saturday after a poster warning that three more Tibetans were preparing to self-immolate "in the Tibetan cause" appeared on the wall of the local police station, a local source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Several other posters also appeared in the town calling for independence for Tibet," the source said, adding that "several hundred" armed Chinese police were then deployed to the area.
The youth, Tashi Palden, 21, was detained as he shouted slogans in the town center calling for Tibetan independence and for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the source said.
"After he had shouted for a few minutes, Chinese security forces attacked him, and he was severely beaten and dragged away."
"Tashi Palden comes from Arura village In Kardze. His father's name is Tenpa Nyima, and his mother's name is Tsering Yangtso," the source said.
A Tibetan businessman who witnessed the incident was also beaten and detained, he said, adding that a crowd that had gathered at the site was then dispersed with tear gas.
"The situation is now extremely tense," he said.
Burned nun dies
The self-immolation Monday came two days after an 18-year-old nun burned herself, also in protest against Chinese rule.
Tenzin Choedron, from Ngaba, shouted slogans as she burned until security forces took her away.
She died early Monday at a Chinese military hospital in the prefectural capital Barkham (in Chinese, Ma'erkang), according to a statement released by the India-based Tibetan parliament-in-exile.
"Tenzin Choedron's father has been told that her body will not be handed over to the family for the last rites," the statement said.
Choedron was the third Tibetan nun to have self-immolated in anti-China protests since February 2009.
Lobsang Gyatso, who set fire to himself on Monday, was the eldest of four siblings of a family belonging to the Nagtsangma clan in Ngaba's Cha township, Tsering and Yeshe said.
His father’s name is Badzri, and his mother’s name is Pekar, they said.
“He was one of the best students in his class at Kirti monastery. He has a very good character, and was always one of the most enthusiastic participants in religious debates.”
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma and Norbu Damdul for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee and Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.