Tibetan Herder Dies After Setting Himself on Fire in Government Protest
By ANDREW JACOBS, BEIJING (NY Times): A Tibetan herder in China’s northwest Qinghai Province died on Friday after setting himself on fire to protest government policies in the region, according to exile groups.The herder, Tamdrinthar, who was in his early 60s and uses only one name, self-immolated in front of a police compound in Markethang, a county seat in the Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, according to the group Free Tibet.
In a statement, the group said the authorities, responding to protests by hundreds of Buddhist monks and local residents, returned Tamdrinthar’s body to his family, who then brought it to a nearby monastery.
Since 2009, at least 38 Tibetans have set fire to themselves in a wave of protest that has defied an increasingly heavy police presence and Beijing’s efforts to paint the self-immolators as terrorists. Of those, 29 have died, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group in Washington.
Protesters who have set themselves ablaze often shout slogans demanding the return of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader; several have left notes or videotaped testimonials condemning government policies they say curtail Buddhist practices and favor the Mandarin language over Tibetan.
Once largely confined to Tibetan parts of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, the self-immolations last month spread to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, where two men set themselves on fire in front of Jokhang Temple, the holiest in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer in Beijing, said the growing toll — and the government’s refusal to scale back its harsh policies — was dispiriting. “If the human rights situation doesn’t improve, such tragic incidents will keep happening,” she said in a phone interview. “Many Tibetans think the pain of self-immolation is nothing compared to the pain of living without religious freedom.”