Two Tibetans set themselves on fire in west China
BEIJING (AP) — Two young Tibetans, a herder and a migrant carpenter, set themselves on fire and hold up Tibetan flags as the flames engulf them before they stumble and fall on a street in western China, in a graphic video of their immolations released Thursday.
One of the two men who self-immolated Wednesday in Yushu prefecture, a heavily Tibetan area in west China’s Qinghai province, died and the other was badly hurt, the Tibetan Youth Congress and China’s Xinhua News Agency said.
The cases add to about three dozen self-immolations over the past year in ethnic Tibetan areas of China in protest of what activists say is Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in the region. The government has confirmed some but not all of them.
Xinhua said the dead man was a local herder and the survivor migrated from Aba prefecture in Sichuan province. The Tibetan Youth Congress said by email that 24-year-old Tenzin Khedup died and it identified the injured man as Ngawang Norphel, 22.
The group released photos of a charred body lying on the bed of a pickup truck and a video showing two men holding up Tibetan independence flags as flames engulf them. Both men stumble and fall in the seven-second video before one man rises and runs down the street in flames. High-pitched screaming can be heard but it’s not clear who is making the sound.
The short video shows several bystanders, including a woman who exits a car next to the burning men and runs away.
The group said “anonymous citizen journalists” took the video and photos. U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia’s Chinese language service posted the video to YouTube.
Beijing blames the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for inciting the self-immolations. The Dalai Lama denies that and says the acts are the result of China’s repressive policies in Tibet.
Barry Sautman, associate professor of social science at Hong Kong University of Science And Technology, noted that while security has been tightened in Tibetan areas to prevent such immolations, it’s very difficult to stop such small-scale and scattered incidents.
“As we can see from the video, this kind of action can take place in a matter of seconds, so, of course the security forces can’t be everywhere,” said Sautman.
Sautman said such protests are likely to stoke a further tightening of restrictions on monks and monasteries in Tibetan regions.