Skip to main content

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

From Amir Ahmed, CNN
January 13, 2013 -- Updated 0742 GMT (1542 HKT)
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
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 0229 GMT (1029 HKT)
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
The massive street rallies that have swept Hong Kong present a major dilemma for China's leadership.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0707 GMT (1507 HKT)
Chinese wine drinkers need to develop a taste for the cheap stuff, not just premium red wines like Lafite.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
ADVERTISEMENT