Monk dies in latest self-immolation

A Tibetan monk died in the latest self-immolation protest against the Chinese government in the south-western province of Sichuan, an advocacy group and news report said on Thursday.

Lobsang Sherab, 20, set fire to himself late on Wednesday in Cha township, which is called Chara in Tibetan, in Sichuan's restive Aba, or Ngaba, area.

Sherab had returned to Cha on Monday from the Kirti monastery, where he was a monk, London-based Free Tibet and US-based Radio Free Asia said.

He died immediately after his protest, the broadcaster quoted Kanyag Tsering, an Indian-based exiled monk from Kirti, as saying.

“The Tibetans who were in the area tried to take his body away, but the Chinese security forces intervened, prevented them from doing so and took the body, much to the anger of the Tibetans,” Tsering said.

“The Chinese security forces also ordered shops in the township to close following the self-immolation, apparently as a precautionary move,” he said.

Many of the 30 other self-immolations reported in Tibetan areas since 2009 occurred near Kirti monastery. At least 22 of the earlier protesters died, according to reports by Tibetan exiles and Chinese state media.

“More than 30 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in a desperate plea for freedom,” Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said. “Thousands more are taking to the streets demanding their freedom from China. The evidence is pointing to a 'Tibetan Spring.'“

A Tibetan protester also died after setting fire to himself in New Delhi Monday ahead of a visit by
Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is in India for a summit of the BRICS group of the emerging economic powerhouses of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, on Wednesday accused China of using “brutal methods to suppress the peaceful Tibetans inside Tibet.”

“We urge the BRICS leaders to raise the issue of Tibet with President Hu Jintao along with Syria and Iran,” it said in a statement.

The exile government reiterated its call for China to allow free access to Tibetan areas for international observers and journalists, reduce security and hold talks with exiled Tibetan leaders to “find a mutually beneficial and lasting solution to the issue of Tibet.”

The Chinese government has tightened security in most Tibetan areas this year after an escalation of the self-immolations and other protests, many of them by monks.

Chinese leaders accuse supporters of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, of encouraging the protests.

The Dalai Lama has publicly opposed the violence and said he seeks only greater freedom for Tibetans within China. But China's ruling Communist Party still accuses him of pursuing independence for Tibet. - Sapa-dpa

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