BEIJING: A Tibetan youth has burned himself to death in southwestern China, the third self-immolation in three days, in what overseas Tibetan rights groups said reflects growing resentment against Beijing’s policies in the Tibetan areas of China.
It was the 25th self-immolation in the past year, with at least 18 believed to have died from their injuries, according to rights groups.
The latest deaths were all lay people and not, as is often the case, Buddhist monks or former clergy. Rights groups said this reflects a wider frustration among ethnic Tibetans at China’s tightening security measures in Tibetan areas.
The self-immolations pose a small but potentially destabilising challenge to China’s regional policies and the government has branded those who set themselves alight as terrorists.
Free Tibet and International Campaign for Tibet said Dorjee, 18, died after he set himself ablaze in Aba County in Sichuan province on Monday in protest at China’s policy on Tibet.
A local official and police told Reuters by telephone that they had no knowledge of the incident.
Aba has been at the forefront of many pro-Tibetan protests in recent months, including several self-immolations.
Free Tibet, based in the United Kingdom, cited an eyewitness saying Dorjee set himself on fire near a bridge and then walked in flames to a government office building where he collapsed.
Tibetan monks at the Kirti monastery in India’s Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, said Dorjee shouted slogans against the Chinese government’s policies on Tibet as he set himself ablaze, according to the US-based International Campaign for Tibet.
Dorjee’s death came two days after two Tibetans killed themselves by setting themselves on fire in Sichuan and neighbouring Gansu province.
“This third self-immolation in as many days underlines that Tibetans will not stop protesting until their calls for freedom are heeded,” Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said in an emailed statement. “The international community must take immediate action.”
Activists say China violently stamps out religious freedom and culture in Tibet, the mountainous region of western China which has been under Chinese control since 1950.
China rejects criticism that it is eroding Tibetan culture and faith, saying its rule has ended serfdom and brought development to a backward region.