DHARAMSHALA, India: Six Tibetans set themselves on fire in China in an escalating wave of protests as the country’s leaders gathered for a once-a-decade power transition, exile leaders said yesterday.
A man set himself ablaze in the Tibetan-inhabited Huangnan prefecture in Qinghai province where a 23-year-old woman self-immolated and died on Wednesday, the India-based exile government announced.
A trio of teenaged monks also set themselves alight on Wednesday in Aba County in Sichuan province, the focus of previous protests, while another burning was confirmed in the Tibetan Autonomous Region on the same day.
Self-immolations to protest Chinese rule in Tibet have occurred regularly since March 2011, but Wednesday marked the first time such a large number have happened on the same day. Two were reported dead.
“The self-immolations in Tibet are an appeal to the international community, to the Chinese government and to the Chinese people as human beings to hear their cry for help,” Dicki Chhoyang, information secretary for the government, told AFP.
A total of 69 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since February 2009, of which 54 have died, according to the government in exile, which has been based in India since Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959.
China blames what it calls the “Dalai clique” for fomenting unrest in Tibet and orchestrating the self-immolations.
Stephanie Brigden, director of the Free Tibet campaign group, said that the spate of protests were “aimed at sending the next generation of China’s unelected regime a clear signal that Tibetans will continue to fight for their freedom”.
The India-based exile group Students For a Free Tibet lamented the latest incidents in a statement but said “decades of intense suffering in Tibet have led many Tibetans to feel compelled to engage in extreme acts of protest”.
It is difficult for the media to independently verify the reports of self-immolations because independent journalists are prevented from travelling to Tibet and sensitive Tibetan areas.