|Rights group said the string of self-immolations ‘represents wider rejection of China’s occupation of Tibet’ [Reuters]|
A Tibetan Buddhist monk is said to have set himself ablaze in western China, the tenth reported ethnic Tibetan this year to resort to the extreme form of protest.
The Free Tibet, a UK-based advocacy group, said that the latest self-immolation took place on Tuesday outside a monastery in Ganzi in Sichuan province.
The city is about 150km south of Aba, the site where eight of the last nine self-immolations happened since March in protest against religious controls imposed by the Chinese government.
In a statement, Free Tibet said it had no information about the monk’s name, whereabouts, or whether he survived the incident.
Government officials and police in Ganzi told the Reuters news agency that they did not know about the reported self-immolation.
“I don’t know about this, and even if I did, I couldn’t be loose-lipped,” an official in the city’s county office said.
Most people in Ganzi and neighbouring Aba are ethnic Tibetan herders and farmers, and many see themselves as members of a wider Tibetan region encompassing the official Tibetan Autonomous Region and other areas across the vast highlands of China’s west.
The series of self-immolations, at least five of them fatal, “represents a wider rejection of China’s occupation of Tibet”, Stephanie Brigden, the director of Free Tibet, said.
Chinese government rejected the criticisms of rights groups and exiled Tibetans and has condemned the self-immolations as destructive and immoral.
Last week, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, whom China condemns as a supporter of violent separatism for his homeland, last week led hundreds of maroon-robed monks, nuns and ordinary Tibetans in prayer to mourn those who have burned themselves to death or been imprisoned.
He denies advocating violence and insists he wants only real autonomy for his homeland, from which he fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
China has ruled Tibet Autonomous Region since Communist troops marched into Tibet in 1950.
In March 2008, protests and deadly riots against the Chinese presence spread across Tibetan regions, triggering sometimes deadly confrontations with troops and police.