Tibetan youth dies in first self-immolation in Lhasa
Lhasa (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Two men set themselves on fire yesterday in Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, near the Jokhang Temple, one of the main local places of worship in Buddhism, where they were taking part in a Buddhist festival. At first, Radio Free Asia (RFA) spoke about two "Tibetan monks", but the news is not confirmed. China's official Xinhua news agency confirmed the "incident" and adds that one person died, while another has survived and is able to speak.
For two years, monks, nuns and Tibetan citizens from different parts of the region and in some Chinese provinces - Sichuan, in particular - have self-immolated in protest against the repression of the Chinese government. However, yesterday's incident is the second in the Tibetan region and the first to take place in the capital Lhasa, the theatre of the 2008 revolt of the monks violently repressed by Beijing and since then manned by the army and special units.
RFA reports that the two protesters belonged to a group of young Tibetans who had gathered around the temple to protest against Chinese imperialism. Tobgye Tseten, originally from the Chinese province of Gansu, died of severe burns, the other man, only known by the name of Dargye, from the province of Sichuan, survived and is able to speak even if "seriously wounded".
An eyewitness of yesterday's self-immolation, reports that Chinese "security forces" immediately arrived at the scene and "put out the flames, then formed a security cordon to keep the tourists away." Within 15 minutes, "the area was completely cleared and there were no traces of the accident." Another man, under anonymity, added that some curious onlookers who "attempted to reach the site" of the fire "were taken away" while police agents "confiscated the mobile phones of all those who were in the area." Currently, the city of Lhasa "is manned by police and para-military troops" and there is an "atmosphere of extreme tension."
Since March 2009, at least 35 Tibetans, many of them young people and also women, have self-immolated in protest against the strict censorship and tight controls imposed by Beijing, which oversees the practice of worship and access to and monasteries. The Dalai Lama has always emphasized he does "not encourage" these extreme forms of rebellion, but he praised the "courage" of those who make the ultimate gesture, the result of the "cultural genocide" that is taking place in Tibet. Beijing responds by attacking the Tibetan spiritual leader, guilty of supporting extreme gestures of "terrorists, criminals or mentally ill."