Protests after Tibetan monk self-immolates

March 17, 2011 at 8:51 PM
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NGABA, China, March 17 (UPI) -- Hundreds of people protesting in western China were "violently suppressed" Thursday after a Tibetan monk burned himself to death, a Tibetan rights group said.

Chinese authorities beat demonstrators and detained protesting monks after the 21-year old monk, who went by the one name of Phuntsog, died -- 10 hours after immolating himself to protest Chinese rule, Washington's International Campaign for Tibet said. After setting himself ablaze, he walked to a market square, shouting slogans, Radio Free Asia reported.

Phuntsog belonged to the Kirti Monastery in China's Sichuan Province. He set himself ablaze near the third anniversary of a March 14, 2008, uprising against Chinese policies in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and at several Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.

At least 10 Tibetans were shot dead by Chinese authorities during the unrest, Tibet advocacy groups say.

Kirti Monastery has been a center of protest against Chinese policies and was especially active in the 2008 Tibetan uprising, The New York Times reported.

"Peaceful protests were violently suppressed today at Kirti Monastery in the Ngaba area of Tibet after a young monk set himself on fire and later died," the Washington group said, citing beatings and arrests.

The official Chinese Xinhua News Agency quoted a local county government spokesman as saying Phuntsog died because of "treatment delays."

"A policeman on patrol found him, put out the flames and rushed him to a nearby hospital," but other monks "from the Kirti Monastery forcibly took him out of the hospital ... and hid him inside the monastery, regardless of his injuries."

ICT and Radio Free Asia said security officers doused Phuntsog's flames, and then beat and kicked him.

"I was told that many of the monks at Kirti monastery would rather die than allow Phuntsog's dead body to be passed onto the Chinese authorities," ICT quoted a monk from Kirti Monastery in exile in Dharamsala, India, as saying.

Security forces locked down the town and detained many local people, said ICT and another advocacy group, Free Tibet.

Wary of potential uprisings this month, Chinese officials barred foreigners from traveling to central Tibet, known as the Tibet Autonomous Region. The travel ban has been in effect every March since the 2008 uprising.

Many Tibetans have complained about the growing domination of China's majority Han population in Tibet and accuse the government of trying to dilute their culture, the BBC reported.

Chinese leaders say Tibetans are generally satisfied with rule by the ethnic Han and accuse exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama of organizing the protests from India, which he denies.

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