Tibetan sets himself on fire in front of shrine in Nepal

By Manesh Shrestha, for CNN

Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) — A Tibetan man set himself on fire in front of a famous Buddhist shrine in the Nepalese capital on Wednesday, police said, becoming the latest Tibetan to adopt this harrowing form of protest over Chinese rule.

The man, believed to be in his early 20s, came out of a nearby restaurant doused in petrol and set himself alight in front of the revered Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, said Keshav Adhikari, a police spokesman.

“The whole of his body is burnt,” Adhikari said, adding that the Tibetan was not able to communicate when he was taken to a hospital for treatment. Authorities are still trying to identify the man.

Self-immolation has become a dramatic and desperate form of protest in recent years for ethnic Tibetans unhappy with Chinese rule.

Tibetan advocacy groups say the number of self-immolations by Tibetans inside China since February 2009 stood at 99 at the end of January. Several others have set themselves on fire in other countries, including India.

Self-immolation began as a form of protest among Tibetans in China in February 2009, when a young monk set himself ablaze. In March 2011, another young monk followed in his footsteps, becoming the first to die. Scores of others have since followed suit.

Should Dalai Lama condemn immolations?

Independently verifying the reported self-immolations inside China is often difficult because of restrictions on reporting from the restive areas and the reluctance of local officials to comment on the accounts provided by foreign-based Tibetan advocacy groups.

Beijing has taken a tough line on the protesters and their associates, accusing the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, of fomenting unrest inside Chinese borders.

Last month, a court in southwestern China gave heavy sentences to two ethnic Tibetans convicted of murder for “inciting” people to set themselves of fire.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising, has long denied China’s assertion that he’s seeking Tibetan independence. He says he wants only enough autonomy to protect their traditional Buddhist culture.

Beijing rejects accusations of oppression, saying that under its rule, living standards have greatly improved for the Tibetan people. It makes centuries-old historical claims on the region.

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