BEIJING – A Tibetan writer posted photos online Friday allegedly showing scenes from two self-immolations in Lhasa, the latest in a series of anti-government suicide protests but the first in the tightly guarded regional capital.
There have been more than three dozen Tibetan self-immolations in China since March last year, but the two Sunday were the first reported in Lhasa. Protests have become rare in remote Tibet and Lhasa in particular because of tight police security that has blanketed the capital since anti-government riots erupted there in 2008.
Beijing-based Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser posted the images to her blog and Twitter feed and told The Associated Press that she did not know who took the photos but that they were forwarded to her by someone she trusts.
The four images show recognizable buildings and stupas close to the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa where state media say the two men lit themselves on fire Sunday afternoon.
Woeser's captions say two of the images are of 25-year-old Dhargye walking while covered in flames near a Buddhist temple as two people rush at him carrying a blanket or a coat. She says the type of plaid shirt worn by one of the men is common to plainclothes police routinely stationed in the center of Lhasa.
The official Xinhua News Agency earlier identified the man who set himself alight as Dargye, from Aba county in Sichuan province which borders Tibet, and said he was hospitalized and is in stable condition.
Woeser says a cloud of smoke visible in the background is believed to be from the second self-immolation — that of 19-year-old Dorjee Tseten, who died at the scene. Xinhua spelled his name Tobgye Tseten and said he was from Xiahe county in Gansu province.
Two other images show a uniformed security officer releasing a fire extinguisher while another officer hovers with a blanket apparently ready to throw it on someone. Woeser said they are believed to be putting out the flames that engulfed Dorjee Tseten, but he is not visible in the photo.
The string of immolations have been aimed at drawing attention to China's restrictions on Buddhism and calling for the return from exile of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Also Friday, the London-based advocacy group Free Tibet said a monk detained following a January 23 anti-government protests in an ethnically Tibetan region of Sichuan province had died.
Tsering Gyaltsen, who was in his forties, had not taken part in the protest but went into hiding following its violent suppression and numerous arrests, the group said. It said he was taken away by police on Feb. 9 and was believed to have been badly beaten.
His family was informed of his death in late May but his body was not returned to them, the group said.
Woeser's blog: http://woeser.middle-way.net/