BEIJING – A Tibetan farmer has died after setting himself on fire in remote northwest China, in the second self-immolation death near the Labrang Monastery in two days and the latest of dozens of such anti-China protests by Tibetans.
The monastery in Gansu province's Xiahe county is one of the most important outside of Tibet, and was the site of numerous protests by monks following deadly ethnic violence in Tibet in 2008 that was the most sustained Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades.
The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said in an email that Dorje Rinchen, a farmer in his late 50s, set himself on fire Tuesday on the main street in Xiahe and died later. China's official Xinhua News Agency also reported that a 58-year-old man died after self-immolating Tuesday afternoon in Xiahe near the Labrang Monastery, but did not provide his name.
Dozens of Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March 2011 in ethnic Tibetan areas of China to protest what activists say is Beijing's heavy-handed rule in the region. Many have called for the return of the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader. The government has confirmed only some of the self-immolations.
China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday reiterated its claim that supporters of the Dalai Lama have been inciting the immolations.
"In order to achieve their separatist goal, the Dalai clique has showed no hesitation in inciting self-immolations," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing. "This is despicable and deserves people's condemnation."
The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in India say they oppose all violence.
Chinese authorities routinely deny Tibetan claims of repression and have accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of encouraging the self-immolations.
Following Tuesday's incident, International Campaign for Tibet sent a photo allegedly showing Dorje wrapped in blankets after the immolation, his neck and head badly charred and swollen. It was not clear whether he was still alive when the blurry, poorly lit picture was taken.
Two other photos obtained by the London-based Free Tibet group that appeared to be taken by someone on the sidewalk in front of Dorje show his body engulfed in flames. One shows him mid-sprint, his entire frame covered in flames except for one leg. The other shows him still in flames but lying face down on the paved street.
Free Tibet said the self-immolation occurred in front of the Xiahe Public Security Bureau. A woman who answered the phone at the bureau refused to answer questions about the self-immolation and the phone of the local Communist Party propaganda office rang unanswered Wednesday. The number for the Labrang Monastery appeared to not be in service.
On Monday, a Tibetan herdsman died after setting himself on fire near the monastery.