Reports from Chinese-ruled Tibet say government forces have clamped tight controls on community life in Lhasa, after two young men set themselves on fire there Sunday afternoon, the first such incident to take place in the heavily guarded Tibetan capital.
The reports said one of the protesters, a 19-year-old male, died at the scene outside the Jokhang Temple, while the other remains hospitalized.
Sources told VOA’s Tibetan service Monday there have been an undetermined number of arrests since the incident, as Chinese authorities seek to control the spread of anti-government self-immolation protests. Those protests have rocked southwestern China and the neighboring Tibetan Autonomous Region for the past 14 months, as Buddhist monks, nuns and their supporters push their demands for freedom and the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Tibetan sources also said that eyewitnesses have photographed the latest protest, but they could not be forwarded because Chinese authorities immediately cut information links to the outside world.
There have been at least 37 self-immolations since March 2011.
China says the immolations incite separatism and are directed from outside the country. However representatives of the Dalai Lama say Tibetans who carry out immolations are driven to do so because they can no longer live under Chinese rule. They accuse China of using separatism as an excuse to crack down even harder on Tibetan culture and religion.
Sunday’s protest is the most dramatic act of defiance in Lhasa since a 2008 uprising, when Chinese security forces placed the city in a permanent state of lockdown.
It follows a new Chinese move to ban Tibetan Buddhists, including current and former government officials, students and party members, from engaging in religious activities during the sacred month of Saka Dawa, which began May 21. Saka Dawa commemorates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.