A monk in Nepal on Wednesday became the 100th Tibetan to carry out a self-immolation protest since 2009, even as Beijing moved to prevent them from spreading, warning of heavy punishment. Police in Kathmandu said a Tibetan, thought to be in his twenties, set himself on fire in a restaurant near the Boudhanath Stupa, an important religious site.
Police spokesman Keshav Adhikari told Agence France-Presse, “a man in his early 20s” arrived at the restaurant at 8.20 a.m. local time and “went straight to the toilet and poured petrol over his body and set himself alight”. He managed to run to the foot of the stupa, he said, before police doused the flames and sent him, in a critical condition, to a hospital. A Tibetan activist in Kathmandu — home to at least 20,000 Tibetans — told AFP that the protest was “a sacrifice for the Tibetan people’s struggle for freedom”.
Second in Kathmandu
Wednesday’s protest was the second by a Tibetan in Kathmandu, and the 100th self-immolation reported by overseas groups since 2009.
Most of the protests have been reported in Tibetan areas in China in the provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu, where monks, nuns, farmers and even students have set themselves on fire. Protesters and their families have said their acts were to protest restrictive policies and to call for a return of the exiled spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, to Tibet.
China, however, has alleged of a ‘separatist plot’ to undermine its rule, and blamed Tibetan exiled groups for organising the protests and spreading information about the incidents.
In recent weeks, authorities have intensified a campaign to crack down on Tibetans alleged to have ties to the protesters. Last week, authorities in northwestern Qinghai said they had detained 70 Tibetans since November and alleged that some of them had links with overseas groups in Dharamsala.
The 100th self-immolation was reported on a day of particular political significance for many Tibetans — overseas groups had planned to mark February 13 as the 100th anniversary of what Tibetans have described as an independence proclamation issued by the previous 13th Dalai Lama. The Chinese State-run Xinhua news agency in a commentary on Monday hit out at the planned events by pro-independence groups, saying it was “ridiculous for the overseas separatist forces to play up the farce and expect applause from the audience”.
The Tibetan New Year (Losar) was also marked on Monday, though many Tibetans in China chose not to celebrate out of respect for the protesters, overseas groups said citing their contacts in Tibetan areas.