Two Tibetans Self-immolate

Two more Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest and one has died. The Washington Post reports:

One of the two men who self-immolated Wednesday in Yushu prefecture, a heavily Tibetan area in west China’s Qinghai province, died and the other was badly hurt, the Tibetan Youth Congress and China’s Xinhua News Agency said.

The cases add to about three dozen self-immolations over the past year in ethnic Tibetan areas of China in protest of what activists say is Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in the region. The government has confirmed some but not all of them.

Xinhua said the dead man was a local herder and the survivor migrated from Aba prefecture in Sichuan province. The Tibetan Youth Congress said by email that 24-year-old Tenzin Khedup died and it identified the injured man as Ngawang Norphel, 22.

The group released photos of a charred body lying on the bed of a pickup truck and a video showing two men holding up Tibetan independence flags as flames engulf them. Both men stumble and fall in the seven-second video before one man rises and runs down the street in flames. High-pitched screaming can be heard but it’s not clear who is making the sound.

Since 2009, dozens of Tibetans have used self-immolation as a means to protest against Beijing policies in Tibet. Radio Free Asia reports on the two recent cases:

Carrying Tibetan flags and shouting pro-independence slogans, former monk Tenzin Khedup, 24, and Ngawang Norphel, 22, torched themselves in Dzatoe (in Chinese, Zaduo) township, Tridu (Chenduo) county, in the Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the exile sources said.

Tenzin Khedup died on the spot while his colleague, Ngawang Norphel was badly burned and is in serious condition at a hospital, according to Lobsang Sangay, a monk in India who is from the Zekar monastery in Yushul, quoting eyewitnesses.

“They called for freedom for Tibet, the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for his long life. Both of them were carrying Tibetan flags in their hands at the time of the self-immolation,” he said.

Authorities have waged a security crackdown in areas where self-immolations have been staged and have taken extreme measures to try to stamp out the protests. The Age reports:

The hotel and dozens of others have since been shut, petrol sales have been tightly restricted and dozens of people taken into custody, according to Tibetan sources.

Squads of orange-clad fire fighters, with fire trucks and four-wheeled buggies, have now joined clusters of police SWAT teams, riot police and paramilitaries in camouflage to prevent monks and Tibetan lay persons from making public spectacles of self-harm.

They are armed with fire hydrants – carried in hand and concealed in rows under fire blankets – as well as semi-automatic weapons and long black poles apparently designed for the safe handling of burning bodies.

Jokhang Temple has been stripped of most of its yak-butter candles, replaced by fluorescent lights, while identification checks are now required to enter monasteries and other public spaces.

Read more about protests by Tibetans and about recent self-immolations, via CDT.

June 21, 2012 2:28 PM
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