Tibetan monk burns himself to death in protest against Chinese rule

 Published: 3/16/2011 8:31:04 AM GMT
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A Tibetan Buddhist monk has burned himself to death in western China, triggering a street protest against government controls, according to a group campaigning for Tibetan self-rule.

Phuntsog, 21, was a monk in Aba, a mainly ethnic Tibetan part of Sichuan province that erupted in defiance against Chinese control three years ago. The monk "immolated himself in protest against the crackdown", said Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet, a London-based organisation.

The self-immolation and subsequent demonstrations mirror the protests that gripped Tibetan areas of China in March 2008 when Buddhist monks and other Tibetans loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama confronted police and troops.

"[Phuntsog] shouted some slogans about freedom when he did it," said Zorgyi, a researcher for the organisation, who like many exiled Tibetans lives in northern India. "We've also received widespread information about a protest with nearly 1,000 monks and lay people that came after." Police moved in to suppress the protest and arrested several monks, Zorgyi said.

Repeated calls to police and government offices in Aba were not answered. One person who answered the phone said: "Nothing is wrong."

The 2008 protests in Lhasa, Tibet's main city, were suppressed by police and turned violent. Rioters torched shops and attacked residents. At least 19 people died – most of them Han Chinese, who are seen by many Tibetans as intruders threatening their culture. Pro-Tibet groups abroad say more than 200 people were killed in the subsequent crackdown.

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