Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - Lobsang Tsultrim, a 20-year old Tibetan monk, set himself on fire yesterday afternoon around 5pm in front of the Kirti Monastery in the town of Ngaba, Sichuan province, the scene of several anti-Chinese protests and numerous self immolations. Also yesterday, at least a thousand Tibetans in neighbouring Qinghai province took to the streets demanding the release of more than 50 monks who were arrested the previous day by Beijing security forces during a raid at the monastery. The confrontation is growing increasingly bitter between Tibetan monks and the Chinese government which maintains a presence throughout the territory and forcibly suppresses any form of dissent under the pretext of bringing modernity and development in the Himalayan region.
Lobsang Tsultrim (pictured) is the 29th Tibetan monk to set themselves on fire since February 2009. The young man self-immolated shouting anti-China slogans in front of government offices of the Prefecture of Aba. A witness reports that the security forces "immediately" intervened, who "put out the flames while they beat him like crazy," and then "threw him into a van." Lobsang, the source adds, was "waving his fist in the air" from inside the van, the classic sign of protest used by monks against Chinese rule.
At the same time in Tongde County in Qinghai Province, at least one thousand Tibetans took to the streets to demand the release of 50 Buddhist monks from the monastery of Ba Shangtre, arrested March 15 for raising flags of Tibet, claiming the right to liberty and self-determination, together with the return of the Dalai Lama. Eyewitnesses report that "the demonstrators continued their peaceful protest", while the Chinese security forces "surrounded the government building." The source adds that "there were no clashes" between the two parties, because the religious elders asked protesters to "promote peaceful demonstrations and avoid any form of violence."
Stephanie Brigden, director of Free Tibet, says that "the Tibetans demand for freedom is increasingly urgent" and " the sense of solidarity" among the inhabitants of the Himalayan region is heightened. "The attempt by China to suppress dissent - she adds - does nothing but strengthen the resolve and defiance: Tibetans are waking up [...] and claiming the right to freedom."
Last year alone more than 24 Tibetans (at least 27 since 2009), including many young people, have chosen self-immolation to protest against the rigid censorship and the strict control imposed by Beijing, which oversees the practice of worship and controls all access to the monasteries. The Dalai Lama has always emphasized that he is "not encouraging" these extreme forms of protest, but he has praised the "courage" of those who make the ultimate gesture, the result of "cultural genocide" that is taking place in Tibet at the hands of China.