Tibetan burns himself to death in China: reports

A Tibetan man burnt himself to death in protest against Chinese rule, reports and Western rights groups said Thursday, bringing the total to have set themselves on fire to at least 101 since 2009.

US-based Radio Free Asia said the man, Lobsang Namgyal, who it described as a former monk from the Kirti monastery, self-immolated last week near a police station in Aba prefecture, a Tibetan area of Sichuan province in southern China.

"He ran toward the police station, calling out slogans with his body on fire, and died at the scene," RFA cited exiled Tibetan monks as saying. "Police then cremated his remains and handed them over to his family."

The 37-year-old was one of a family of four brothers and four sisters and was detained and harassed last year by police, RFA said, citing exiles monks.

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet described him as a monk and said he was "known as a serious and exceptional scholar". The first Tibetan to set himself on fire was also from Kirti monastery, it added.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

The report takes the number of ethnic Tibetans to have set themselves on fire since 2009 to 101, after an exile turned himself into a ball of fire on Wednesday in front of the Boudhanath Stupa, a Buddhist monument in Kathmandu. At least 85 have died, tallies show.

The exile in Nepal, in his early 20s, died of his injuries late Wednesday with burns covering 96 percent of his body, a hospital official said.

Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based campaign group Free Tibet, said: "This grim milestone should be a source of shame to the Chinese authorities who are responsible and to the world leaders who have yet to show any leadership in response to the ongoing crisis in Tibet.

"China employs brutal repression, propaganda and bribery to no avail: protest and resistance will continue as long as the Tibetan people are denied their freedom."

Beijing rejects criticism of its rule, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and pointing to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.

Authorities have sought to crack down on the gruesome protests by arresting those it accuses of inciting them and prosecuting them for murder, and have embarked on a major publicity drive on the issue in recent weeks.

Beijing routinely accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his "clique" of inciting such acts to push a separatist agenda.

The Dalai Lama, who says he is not seeking Tibetan independence but greater autonomy, fled his homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising. He has since based himself in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala.

RFA also said that a Tibetan woman had set herself on fire in Beijing in September after officials in Sichuan province refused to allow her to keep her ancestral home, adding that she had not previously been included in lists of Tibetan self-immolators.

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