Dharamsala (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A 49 year old man identified as Namla Tsering set himself on fire in a crowded street in Labrang - Sangchu County - to protest against Chinese rule of Tibet and demand the return of the Dalai Lama. The man, a husband and father of four children, was taken away by the Chinese authorities: his condition is unknown, but local sources say it is "unlikely" that he survived. Thus the total number of victims from self-immolations protesting Chinese rule now stands at 102 people.
It is the second such tragedy to take place in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Kanlho (Gannan for the Chinese) in the western province of Gansu (Amdo to Tibetans): a few days ago another Tibetan - Drukpa Khar, 26 - chose to commit suicide in the same area. Namla Tsering's self immolation is also the sixth so far in 2013.
The Chinese government has chosen to respond with an iron fist. Instead of listening to the protests of the population it is pointing the finger at the "Dalai clique" that "is orchestrating these suicides." It has also issued new, harsher regulations against those planning a self-immolation or even speaking about them in public. In recent weeks, a Chinese court sentenced at least 15 Tibetans (many of them Buddhist monks) to up to 13 years in prison.
Moreover, the Chinese authorities have blocked access to foreigners wanting to travel to Tibet and have ordered the deployment of paramilitary forces in the area. It is now almost impossible to communicate with the interior and even move between prefectures. Stephanie Bridgen, director of the NGO "Free Tibet", says: "Despite these decisions, the self-immolations continue. There is clearly the need for decisive action by the international community against Chinese repression."