A 37-year-old former monk was the 100th Tibetan to self-immolate in the Sichuan province of southwest China, rights groups said Thursday, adding to the number of Tibetans who set fire to themselves outside the country including one in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, a Tibetan set fire to himself outside a restaurant near the Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu and later succumbed to his injuries at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital.
Ethnic Tibetans are demanding greater political and cultural freedom and the return of Dalai Lama to China. On its part, China maintains that self-immolations are being incited by the India-based separatist “Dalai clique”.
About the case in Sichuan, statements from rights groups said Lobsang Namgyal, a former monk at the Kirti monastery, set himself on fire on February 3 but the news about the case filtered out only late on Wednesday.
“It has taken 10 days to confirm news of Lobsang Namgyal protest because Tibetans are too frightened of Chinese state reprisals to speak about protests. Most people believe that all communications are monitored and there have been a number of high profile convictions for Tibetans accused of sharing information. In the days following Lobsang Namgyal’s self-immolation his younger brother was detained, his family members followed and their telephones bugged,” London-based Free Tibet said in a statement.
Lobsang died at the scene and his body was removed by officials who cremated him and returned his ashes to his family, the statement added.
According to the group, in September 2012, Lobsang was “disappeared” for two weeks, during which time his family searched for him but were not informed that he was being held by the police.
“After his detention, Lobsang Namgyal disrobed, reportedly due to threats by the police; he was routinely followed by Chinese state officials in the period after his arrest,” the statement added.
It added that China was going to great lengths to create an information blackout in Tibet, banning international journalists and observers, cutting telephone lines, blocking the internet and meting out severe punishments on Tibetans for sharing information.
Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said Lobsang was known as an exceptional student at Kirti monastery who had been tipped to study for the highest qualification in Tibetan Buddhism, a Geshe degree.
“He was regarded as a model for a new generation of students at Kirti,” the Kirti monks in exile said in a statement in Tibetan.