Two monks try to self-immolate in China

BEIJING — Two young monks set themselves on fire Monday in an attempted self-immolation at a restive Tibetan Buddhist monastery in southwestern China, rights groups said, adding the pair survived.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 6:17 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:59 AM

The monks from the Kirti monastery in Sichuan province, the scene of repeated protests, called for religious freedom and shouted “long live the Dalai Lama” before setting themselves alight, Free Tibet said in a statement.

An official at the People’s Hospital in Aba County confirmed the two men — Kalsang and Konchok — were admitted to hospital Monday afternoon but declined to comment on their condition.

Kalsang was the brother of a monk called Phuntsog who committed suicide in March by setting himself on fire on the third anniversary of anti-government unrest in the area.

His death sparked protests and the monastery was sealed off by police.

London-based Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said the latest protest underlined “the growing desperation among some young Tibetans”.

“It is impossible to confirm what prompted this act of protest but it is believed to be in response to mounting pressure on the monastic community at Kirti monastery and Phuntsog’s family members,” Brigden said.

Calls to the monastery went unanswered while local government officials and police told AFP they were not aware of the incident.

A Twitter posting that could not immediately be verified said one of the monks had died. The official Xinhua news agency said the monks had been “rescued”, quoting local authorities.

The situation at the influential monastery — the scene of repeated anti-government protests — has deteriorated since the March 16 death of Phuntsog.

Phuntsog was the second monk at Kirti to set himself on fire since the anti-Chinese riots in Lhasa of March 2008, the bloodiest in Tibet in 20 years.

Xinhua said he was just 16 years old at the time of his death, though reports at the time varied and rights groups put the monk’s age at 20 or 21.

Last month, China jailed three monks for between 10 and 13 years for helping Phuntsog burn himself to death, raising criticism from the United States and rights groups.

Another monk killed himself by self-immolation in August at Sichuan’s Nyitso monastery, drinking petrol before setting himself alight. Soldiers and police responded by surrounding the monastery.

US-based International Campaign for Tibet spokeswoman Kate Saunders said the latest violent protest was “a desperate act driven by anguish at the current situation there.”

Free Tibet’s Brigden called on the “international community to put pressure on China to accept invitations to resume talks for a negotiated solution to the crisis in Tibet.”

Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they view as increasing domination by China’s majority Han ethnic group and accuse the government of trying to dilute their predominantly Buddhist culture.

China, however, says that Tibetan living standards have improved markedly in recent decades, pointing to the billions of dollars it has spent on infrastructure and development projects.

The Tibetan government in exile, based in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, said it was “deeply saddened” by the incident which highlighted the “desperation of the Tibetan people”.

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