A Tibetan nomadic herder set himself on fire to protest against the Chinese regime’s decades-old occupation of Tibet in the central-western province of Qinghai on Friday, sparking mass demonstrations and a subsequent security crackdown.
Tibetan human rights groups said Tamdin Thar, believed to be in his 60s, was killed after he set himself on fire outside the People’s Armed Police compound, which is said to house military personnel, in Chentsa near the border with the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Following the death, between four and five hundred Tibetan civilians and monks gathered and demanded that his body be returned, according to Free Tibet. The body was taken by local authorities, who later returned it and his family took it to a nearby monastery.
Free Tibet said that because the man set himself on fire in front of a police building, the act was a “clear and absolute rejection of Chinese rule.”
“However, the presence of Chinese security forces is on the increase in this area,” a woman, who did not give her name, told Radio Free Asia.
Photos published by the International Campaign for Tibet, or Save Tibet, showed throngs of armed police officers positioned near his body in Chentsa along with numerous police and military vehicles.
China’s state-run media mouthpiece, Xinhua, confirmed in a two-sentence report that a man died after he set himself on fire, but did not elaborate.
“Tibetans from many different villages near Chentsa and monasteries outside Chentsa have converged upon the town to offer prayers for him,” Save Tibet said, citing Tibetan exile sources familiar with the matter.
The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy told RFA that Tamdin Thar was a nomad who was forced to move to Chentsa due to the Chinese regime’s “nomad relocation policy,” RFA reported.
In recent months, there has been a wave of protests that have swept across Sichuan Province, the Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai, and parts of Gansu. Several dozen people—mostly monks—have also set themselves on fire in protest.
The self-immolations and demonstrations have not much affected the Tibetan capital of Lhasa because of the persistent heavy security presence in the city. However, two young Tibetan men burned themselves in Lhasa last month, making them the first to do so in the capital.
At least 39 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since February 2009. Friday’s incident was the sixth self-immolation in Qinghai Province.
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