A Tibetan man living in western China’s Sichuan province set himself ablaze on Wednesday to protest Beijing’s rule, bringing to 140 the number of self-immolations in Tibetan areas of China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009.
Tenzin Gyatso, 35, self-immolated at around 8:00 p.m. on May 20 in the Khangsar township of Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, sources in the region and in exile said.
“He staged his protest near a bridge close to official government buildings in Khangsar,” a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing local sources.
“While he was burning, security personnel stationed in the area rushed to put out the fire and took him away,” the source, named Tawu Tenzin, said.
“It is hard to know now whether he has died or is still alive,” he said.
Local Tibetans believe that Gyatso, who has a wife and four children, became upset when security forces were sent to Khangsar to prevent celebrations of the 80th birthday of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Tenzin said.
“Security forces conducted searches, interrogated several Tibetans, and harassed others,” Tenzin said, adding that some Tibetans had been detained for showing “unpleasant faces.”
Following Gyatso’s protest, additional numbers of security personnel were deployed in Khangsar, and restrictions on movement and communications have been imposed in the area, sources said.
Calls seeking comment from the Tawu county police rang unanswered on Wednesday.
Reported by Lhuboom, Lobsang Choephel, and Sonam Lhamo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.