Two Tibetans set themselves on fire Friday in restive Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture in China’s Sichuan province, protesting against Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, an advocacy group said.
One of them is believed to have died, London-based Free Tibet said.
They were the first self-immolations this year after a dozen such incidents in 2010.
A man, thought to be a lay person, set himself on fire near Kirti Monastery in Ngaba town at around 2:50 p.m. local time, Free Tibet said. His well-being and whereabouts are unknown, Free Tibet said.
A second person also self-immolated nearby at the same time and is reported to have died at the scene, it said.
“These latest self-immolations confirm that what we are currently witnessing in Tibet is a sustained and profound rejection of the Chinese occupation,” Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said.
“It is a damning indictment of the international community that 14 people, in different parts of Tibet, have now chosen to set themselves on fire and the international community has failed to respond.
“We can only expect that such acts of protest will continue for as long as world leaders turn a blind eye to the desperate situation in Tibet,” she said.
Based on reports from secondary sources, Free Tibet said the man who self-immolated Friday was heard calling for the return of Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is living in exile in India, before Chinese forces extinguished the flames and removed him.
The self-immolations came as tens of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from around the world traveled this week to Bodhgaya, a town in northern India, to hear the Dalai Lama give the “Kalachakra” religious teachings.
At least 9,000 Tibetans traveling on Chinese passports, along with an estimated 1,200 Chinese Buddhists from the mainland, are among those who have registered with the event authorities.
A Kalachakra attendee who phoned his family and relatives in Ngaba in a bid to make them hear the Dalai Lama’s voice said they informed the caller that “two men: one monk and one lay person self-immolated at the Ngaba market,” the Tibetan Times reported.
“With folded hands they faced towards Kirti Monastery and raised a number of slogans amongst which the audible ones were ‘Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama’ and ‘We want the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet’,” according to the report.
The caller was also informed that “the Chinese police and army landed at the site and forcibly took them away.”
“The flames were huge and the layman might have probably died and there is less of a chance for the monk to survive,” it said.
Most of the self-immolations so far have occurred in Ngaba.
Tensions in the Tibet Autonomous Region and in Tibetan-populated areas in China’s provinces have not subsided since anti-China riots swept through the Tibetan Plateau in March 2008.
Chinese authorities have blamed Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for the tense situation, saying he is encouraging the self-immolations, which run contrary to Buddhist teachings.
But the Dalai Lama shot back, blaming China’s “ruthless and illogical” policy towards Tibet.
He called on the Chinese government to change its “repressive” policies in Tibet, citing the crackdown on monasteries and policies curtailing use of the Tibetan language.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.