Tibetan monk self-immolates on anniversary of ’08 protests

BEIJING—The Chinese government said a young Tibetan Buddhist monk has died after setting himself on fire in a Tibetan area of southwestern China on Wednesday, the anniversary of anti-Chinese protests in the area in 2008.

The state-run Xinhua news agency identified the monk as Phuntsog, 24 years old, from Aba county in the southwestern province of Sichuan, and quoted a local government spokesman blaming his death on monks from the Kirti monastery there.

BEIJING—The Chinese government said a young Tibetan Buddhist monk has died after setting himself on fire in a Tibetan area of southwestern China on Wednesday, the anniversary of anti-Chinese protests in the area in 2008.

The state-run Xinhua news agency identified the monk as Phuntsog, 24 years old, from Aba county in the southwestern province of Sichuan, and quoted a local government spokesman blaming his death on monks from the Kirti monastery there.

The spokesman was quoted as saying that police had doused the flames and rushed Phuntsog to the hospital, but the monks had forcibly removed him and taken him back to their monastery where they hid him until 3 a.m Thursday.

He said the monk died around 3:44 a.m., according to the Xinhua report.

But the International Campaign for Tibet, a Washington-based group that campaigns for human rights and democratic freedoms in the region, said the monks had taken only his dead body back to the monastery because they didn’t want it to be passed to Chinese authorities.

Police extinguished the flames that engulfed Phuntsog but were then seen kicking and beating him before he died, the ICT statement said, quoting Tibetan exiles who it said were in contact with people in Aba county.

Hundreds of monks and civilians protested near the monastery, according to ICT. It also said police had detained an unknown number of monks.

ICT said Phuntsog was 21 years old, and set himself on fire on Wednesday, the third anniversary of a protest at the Kirti during which at least 10 Tibetans were shot dead by Chinese police.

That shooting came just a few days after anti-Chinese rioting broke out in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, which left about 20 people dead and sparked protests in many other Tibetan regions.

Another monk from Kirti set himself on fire in Feburary 2009 to protest the ensuing security crackdown, but he survived and was taken into police custody, ICT said.

The latest self-immolation highlights continuing resentment against Chinese rule in Tibet despite the billions of dollars Beijing has invested in improving living standards and basic infrastructure there.

The Chinese government says Tibet had been an integral part of its territory for centuries before Communist troops took control of the region in 1951. But many Tibetans remain devoted to the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, who says his homeland had been de facto independent for several hundred years.

After a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, he fled to India, from where he has been running a government-in-exile and a peaceful campaign for greater autonomy within China.

The Dalai Lama announced last week that he planned to retire as political leader of the governmentin-exile and hand power to a prime minister due to be elected Sunday, while retaining his religious role.

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