BEIJING — A Tibetan man in southwest China set himself on fire Monday, the latest in a series of shocking protests against Chinese rule, an overseas human rights group said.
The man set himself alight along the main street of Ngaba which sits on the Tibet plateau in a Tibetan-inhabited area of China’s Sichuan province, the London-based Free Tibet said in a statement.
Local government officials in the town, known as Aba in Chinese, were not immediately available for comment.
Security personnel quickly extinguished the flames and took the man away in a security vehicle, the statement said.
He was believed to be still alive, although his upper body was badly burned, it added.
More than 40 people have set themselves on fire in recent months in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China in protest at repressive government policies, the group said, with most incidents linked to monks or former monks of Aba’s Kirti monastery.
Tibetans have long chafed under China’s rule over the vast Himalayan region, charging that Beijing has curbed religious freedoms and their culture is being eroded by an influx of Han Chinese, the country’s main ethnic group.
Beijing, however, says Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and have benefited from improved living standards brought on by China’s economic expansion.
“As the world’s media focuses on the discipline of Chinese athletes, Chinese state repression is driving Tibetans to set fire to themselves under a media blackout,” said Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden.
“China is competing in the Olympic Games despite having broken every commitment on human rights made during its bid for the 2008 Games.”
The latest incident comes after a young Tibetan man who set himself alight in June died from his injuries on Wednesday last week, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).
Prior to that two men set themselves on fire in front of the Jokhang temple, a renowned Buddhist temple in the centre of Lhasa, on May 27 in the first such incident to hit the city.
Lhasa was the scene of violent anti-Chinese government protests in 2008, which later spread to other areas inhabited by Tibetans, and authorities have kept the city under tight security since then.