Skip to main content

Another Tibetan sets himself on fire, dies to protest Chinese rule

From Amir Ahmed, CNN
updated 2:42 AM EST, Sun January 13, 2013
Protesters carrying posters of Tibetans who have self-immolated walk to the United Nations in New York on December 10, 2012.
Protesters carrying posters of Tibetans who have self-immolated walk to the United Nations in New York on December 10, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Details of the death are sketchy
  • Self-immolation as protest started in 2009
  • By December last year, 95 Tibetans had carried out the act
  • China rejects accusations of oppression

(CNN) -- A Tibetan man protesting China's rule of the region set himself on fire Saturday, his death believed to be the first case of self-immolation this year -- but one that adds to a grim, growing toll.

The death took place in Gansu province in northwestern China.

It was reported by Free Tibet, a London-based organization that campaigns for self-determination for Tibetans, and by the U.S.-based Radio Free Asia.

Free Tibet said the man was 22, while Radio Free Asia put his age at 19.

Tibetan self-immolations on the rise
Self-immolations on rise in Tibet
Dalai Lama silent on self-immolations

Details of the death -- as has been the case with other such incidents -- are sketchy and difficult to verify. Internet content controlled by local authorities makes reliable information almost impossible to come by.

Self-immolation is a common form of protest for Tibetans, who want genuine autonomy from China and accuse Beijing of repression.

China began a gradual occupation of Tibet in the 1950s. Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled for India in 1959 after a failed uprising, and many ethnic Tibetans followed him.

Beijing rejects accusations of oppression, saying that under its rule, living standards have greatly improved for the Tibetan people. It makes centuries-old historical claims on the region.

Self-immolation as a form of protest by Tibetans began in February 2009, when a young monk set himself ablaze. In March 2011, another young monk followed in his footsteps, becoming the first to die.

By December 2012, 95 Tibetans had carried out the act, with 28 self-immolations in November alone when China's political elite ushered in its next generation of leaders during its Communist Party Congress. At least 81 of them died, according to the International Tibet Network, a coalition of some 150 pro-Tibet groups..

In his first speech as Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping stressed the need for unity in a country where the Party was becoming too distant from the people. This followed predecessor Hu Jintao's comments to Congress delegates in November that the Party "should consolidate and develop socialist ethnic relations of equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony so that all ethnic groups in China will live and develop together in harmony."

But activists warn that if the Chinese government continues to tighten its grip on the Tibetan people in the name of stability, it will only create more resentment.

They point to the growing list of young victims prepared to take such extreme action, which they say reflects a desperate and painful state of mind for many.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
updated 5:39 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
It'd be hard to find another country that has spent as much, and as furiously, as China on giving its next generation a head start.
updated 12:32 AM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
In 1985, Meng Weina set up China's first private special needs school in the southern city of Guangzhou.
updated 3:14 PM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
Despite China's inexorable economic rise, the U.S. is still an indispensable ally, especially in Asia. No one knows this more than the Asian giant's leaders, writes Kerry Brown.
updated 10:38 PM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
For the United States and China to announce a plan reducing carbon emissions by almost a third by the year 2030 is a watershed moment for climate politics on so many fronts.
updated 3:26 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
China shows off its new stealth fighter jet, but did it steal the design from an American company? Brian Todd reports.
updated 8:01 PM EST, Mon November 10, 2014
Airshow China in Zhuhai provides a rare glimpse of China's military and commercial aviation hardware.
updated 8:14 AM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
A new exchange initiative aims to bridge relations between the two countries .
updated 12:51 AM EST, Tue November 11, 2014
Xi and Abe's brief summit featured all the enthusiasm of two unhappy schoolboys forced to make up after a schoolyard dust-up.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Mon November 10, 2014
Maybe you've decided to show your partner love with a new iPhone. But how about 99 of them?
updated 9:19 PM EST, Sun November 2, 2014
Can China's Muslim minority fit in? One school is at the heart of an ambitious experiment to assimilate China's Uyghurs.
updated 9:55 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is one of thousands of Americans learning Chinese.
updated 12:00 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says he needs to maintain good economic ties with China while trying to keep Beijing's push for reunification at bay.
updated 1:28 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Chinese drone-maker DJI wants to make aerial photography drones mainstream despite concerns about privacy.
updated 1:18 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A top retired general confesses to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in war on corruption.
ADVERTISEMENT