11/17/2011, 00.00
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Man sets fire to himself in Tiananmen Square to protest against Communist justice system

Identified only as ‘Wang’, the victim is now recovering in hospital. Despite the tight controls around the square, symbol and heart of Communist China, he was able to self-immolate in front of Mao’s portrait. Suicide again becomes a means to protest against government injustice.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Chinese authorities confirmed that a 42-year-old man set himself on fire in Tiananmen Square today over a legal dispute. This is the first incident of its kind since 2001 in the square, which has become the heart and symbol of Communist China. Identified only as ‘Wang’, the man hails from the city of Huanggang. He was immediately rescued by police who put out the fire. Now he is in hospital recovering from his injuries.

"Around 11am [on] 21st October, 2011, a man, surnamed Wang, walked up to Jinshui Bridge and the marble pillars [and] suddenly set his clothes alight," a statement from China's Public Security Bureau said. "Police on duty at the scene took only 10 seconds to put out the fire and sent him to hospital for treatment."

A British tourist who witnessed the incident with her husband told the BBC she had been horrified by what happened, which occurred near the Mao portrait. "As the policeman moved forward, he started to walk fast forward with flames all over him," Pamela Brown told the BBC World Service.

As the latest incident shows, self-immolation is no longer limited to Tibet, where 11 monks and nuns tried to take their own lives by fire to protest against government repression.

This form of extreme protest is not unheard of in Asia, but had not occurred in China in recent years.

In 2004 and 2005, some migrant workers committed to suicide to protest against abuse and unpaid wages by employers.

The days preceding Chinese News Year, a time in which wages and debts are traditionally paid, are especially dangerous for suicide.

Rather than return home empty handed and lose face before one’s family, some workers (the real backbone of China’s boom) set themselves on fire to draw public attention to their plight.
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