Skip to main content

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

From Amir Ahmed, CNN
updated 2:42 AM EST, Sun January 13, 2013
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
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT