Shouting "Freedom for Tibet," a 19-year-old Tibetan set himself on fire in the Ngaba (Aba, in Chinese) area in China's southwestern Sichuan province in the eighth self-immolation protest this year.
Chinese police chased Norbu Dramdul as he ran in flames for a distance before they extinguished the fire, beat him up, bundled him in a police car and sped away, eyewitnesses said.
The condition of Dramdul, who lives in Ngaba's Choeje township, is unclear. The incident took place just before noon in Ngaba town.
Dramdul is a former monk from Ngaba's Kirti monastery under siege by Chinese security forces since early this year and from where hundreds of monks have been taken away to secret destinations.
Most of the previous seven self-immolations were by monks from the Kirti monastery protesting against Chinese rule in Tibetan populated areas and human rights abuses.
Dramdul caused a stir among the Ngaba town's pre-noon crowd Sunday when he set himself ablaze, shouted slogans, and ran forward, according to eyewitnesses quoted by Tibetan monks Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering from Kirti's sister monastery in Dharamsala, India's hill town.
"I heard loud shouts of 'Freedom for Tibet' and 'Let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet' coming from behind me. When I looked back, I saw a person on fire running towards us," one eyewitness said.
"As soon as I saw that, I was gripped with fear. His hair was burning and the back of his upper garment burned and fell to the ground in pieces. I could tell that he had long hair and was wearing pale-colored pants."
"He did not fall to the ground despite being kicked [by policemen] who also tried to douse him with water."
Eyewitnesses said the police finally caught up with him, apprehended him and took him away in a car, according to Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering.
A huge number of security forces were then deployed around the town center, bringing traffic to a standstill, they said.
The latest self-immolation protest came as Tibetans prepared for a day of fasting and prayers on Wednesday.
It is to display solidarity in the face of rising Tibetan protests against Chinese rule.
The Tibetan government-in-exile in India has called on the United Nations and “freedom-loving countries and people around the world” for increased attention to Tibet following the self-immolation protests.
“On October 19, 2011, the Central Tibetan Administration will offer day-long prayers and encourage all Tibetans to fast on that day as a gesture of solidarity with Tibetans in Tibet,” a statement said.
Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, of violating Buddhist teachings by not condemning the self-immolations in which four monks have died.
“[The Dalai Lama] has said many times in the past that suicidal protests are not something he approves of or wants to encourage,” said Robbie Barnett, director of the Modern Tibetan Studies program at Columbia University.
“But he can’t put himself in the position of criticizing people’s right to protest, and he certainly can’t put himself in the position of saying these people don’t experience intolerable pressure.… It’s quite clear that they do.”
“The obvious solution for this would seem to be for China to talk to the Dalai Lama,” Barnett said.
“They are facing a moral crisis, and he’s one obvious person—probably the only one—who could really help them with this."
Reported by RFA's Tibetan service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.