KATHMANDU: A Tibetan exile turned himself into a ball of fire in front of a Buddhist monument yesterday, the 100th self-immolation attempt since 2009 in a wave of protests against Chinese rule.
Witnesses told AFP the man in his early 20s doused himself with petrol in a restaurant washroom in the Nepalese capital, ran outside and set himself alight next to Kathmandu’s Boudhanath Stupa, one of the world’s holiest Buddhist shrines.
“After setting himself on fire at the foot of the stupa, he started running — he cried out something but I couldn’t understand the language,” said a waiter at the restaurant.
“Police arrived within minutes after people started to shout for help,” the waiter, Phursang Tamang, told AFP.
The bespectacled man was engulfed by flames before police were able to extinguish the fire and take him to hospital where he was listed in critical condition.
The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in the Indian town of Dharamshala in the foothills of the Himalayas, had previously put the number of burnings since 2009 at 99, with 83 of them fatal.
The office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, had identified the man as a monk. Police in Kathmandu could not confirm that he was a monk, and he was clad in a jacket and red cap rather than in a monk’s robes.
The gruesome burnings, most of which have occurred in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, are seen as a sign of desperation in the community over perceived religious persecution in Chinese-ruled Tibet.
Speaking to AFP ahead of the milestone of 100 cases, Tibetan exile prime minister Lobsang Sangay had blamed Chinese authorities and called for the international community to
“Because there is no freedom of speech or outlet for any form of protest, unfortunately Tibetans have chosen self-immolations,” he said in an interview in Dharamshala.
“To the international community I say ‘stand up for Tibetans’. The Chinese government has completely militarised the Tibetan area,” he added.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of encouraging the immolations and says huge investment has brought modernisation and a better standard of living to Tibet.