Tibetan monks at a monastery in China's Sichuan province fear a possible crackdown by Chinese security forces following a self-immolation protest this week amid widening demonstrations against rule by Beijing.
"They are very tense and anxious about a possible intervention by the Chinese police," one monk said, a day after one of his peers set himself ablaze at a monastery in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
In nearby Ngaba prefecture, the Kirti monastery, home of most of the 10 Tibetans who have self-immolated so far this year, has already been under siege by Chinese security forces.
Earlier this year, hundreds of monks were forcibly removed from Kirti and taken to secret locations for "political education."
Rushed to hospital
On Tuesday, Dawa Tsering, 41, set himself ablaze during an annual ritual gathering at the monastery in Kardze town after calling on Tibetans to unite against Beijing's rule in Tibetan-majority areas, witnesses said.
He was rushed to the Kardze People's Hospital in a monastery vehicle after the flames were extinguished by fellow monks.
He was then brought back to the monastery hours later fully covered in bandages and begging his rescuers to let him die.
“I witnessed the self-immolation and I saw burns on his head and all over," a monk at the Kardze monastery said Wednesday.
Another monk said “The burns were not life-threatening."
"For now, there is no risk of his arrest. The police have not intervened so far. They are present at the hospital even though he is staying in the monastery now," he said.
"So far, there isn’t much of a police presence in Kardze town, but the majority of the monks remain alert and are closely watching him."
'It did not happen'
Reached by telephone on Wednesday, an officer at the Kardze police station denied the incident had taken place.
"Who are you? Where did this happen? How did you hear about it? It did not happen," he said.
Police have not interviewed the monk's family or relatives, a Kardze monk said.
Meanwhile, Tibetans have been flocking to visit Dawa Tsering to show their solidarity.
"The locals say his self-immolation is for the Tibetan cause,” one monk said.
A wider rejection
“This latest self-immolation ... coupled with protests in other parts of Tibet, underlines that the crisis in Tibet is not driven by events in one town, but represents a wider rejection of China’s occupation of Tibet," said Stephanie Brigden, the director of London-based Free Tibet, an advocacy group.
Brigden added that China’s stiff response to the self-immolation and other Tibetan protests "exposes that the Chinese regime is concerned that Tibetans are again powerfully illustrating their rejection of Chinese rule, threatening the Communist Party’s One-China policy."
Among the measures Brigden cited were significantly increased numbers of security personnel—including in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, hundreds of kilometres away from where the self-immolations have taken place—as well as restrictions on movement and interruptions to telephone and Internet service.
Chinese security personnel are also patrolling with fire extinguishers in both Ngaba and Lhasa, she said.
Beijing has accused Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama of violating Buddhist teachings by not publicly condemning the self-immolations.
The Dalai Lama last week led mass prayers for those who self-immolated in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where he lives in exile.
Reported by Norbu Damdul and Sonam Wangdue for RFA's Tibetan service. Translation by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.