Two More Self-Immolations Near Kirti Monastery; One Possibly Fatal

The Associated Press reports that two former monks set themselves on fire on Friday in protest at Chinese policy towards Kirti monastery, following another such incident on Monday:

The two former monks, 18-year-old Thongan and 20-year-old Tenzin, set themselves on fire in Aba county in Sichuan province’s Aba prefecture Friday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Xinhua cited an Aba county spokesman as saying the monks were rescued and were being treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries ….

Overseas Tibet activist groups gave slightly different accounts of the self-immolations. The Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet said the two men were named Choephel, 19, and Kayang, 18, and that they clasped their hands together as they set themselves alight.

It and the London-based Free Tibet group said there were unconfirmed reports that Choephel died at the site.

The Guardian notes yet more confusion in accounts of the incident, as well as the relative novelty of this form of protest among Tibetans:

The public security bureau in Aba denied any knowledge of an incident. “Nothing like that happened here. I am not aware of the situation,” a spokeswoman told Reuters, despite claims that police officers had helped extinguish the flames and beaten the men as they took them to hospital.

Until 2009 experts knew of only one Tibetan self-immolation, by a lay person living overseas. But today’s death was the second at Kirti within a week – another monk set fire to himself on Monday – and the seventh in Sichuan within two and a half years. “This is a new development … We are all struggling for the right words to characterise what is happening,” said Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet.

In South Africa, meanwhile, controversy continues over the Dalai Lama’s absence from Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations due to a visa “hiccup”. From The Guardian:

The South African government’s failure to grant an entry visa to the Dalai Lama has cast a pall over Tutu’s birthday week, with the archbishop denouncing the governing African National Congress (ANC) as worse than the apartheid regime, and warning that he would pray for its defeat ….

The ANC has denied giving in to Chinese pressure over the Dalai Lama’s visa, claiming it is still being processed and calling on Tutu to “calm down”. When asked if the Dalai Lama would be granted a visa, Motlanthe reportedly said: “I don’t see why it should be an issue at all ….”

The Dalai Lama is set to deliver a peace lecture via videolink on Saturday. His absence in Cape Town will be symbolised by an empty chair.