Two Tibetans set themselves afire in front a temple in the heart of Lhasa on Sunday, bringing the recent wave of protests against the government for the first time to the heavily guarded Capital of the Tibetan Autnomous Region (TAR).
Reports quoted US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia as saying that the men had joined a protest against Chinese rule outside the Jokhang temple, a renowned centre for Buddhist pilgrimage in Lhasa. Once there, they set themselves on fire.
“Tibetan protests against Chinese occupation reached the capital city of Lhasa yesterday, 27 May 2012, when two Tibetans set themselves on fire in front of the iconic Jokhang Temple in the centre of the old city,” London-based Free Tibet said in an emailed statement.
China's official Xinhua news agency said police put the flames out quickly and that one of the men, named Dargye, survived and was in a stable condition. Xinhua did not identify the men as monks and said Dargye was from Aba county in southwest China's Sichuan province, where many of the recent self-immolations have taken place.
Aba is home to the Kirti monastery, which has been under virtual lockdown since a young monk named Phuntsog set light to himself and died in March 2011, sparking mass protests there.
Xinhua named the dead man as Tobgye Tseten, from Gansu province, which borders Sichuan and also has a large population of ethnic Tibetans. Radio Free Asia quoted a source as saying the situation in Lhasa was now "very tense".
“Free Tibet is closely monitoring the on-going situation in Lhasa. In other parts of Tibet where protests have taken place we have documented hundreds of arbitrary arrests and disappearances. We fear a similar response in Lhasa. China’s security apparatus is in place to punish people in large numbers,” Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said.