A Tibetan monk was shot on Feb. 27 after setting himself on fire during a protest in eastern Tibet, reports say. The monk, named Tape, was shouting slogans and carrying a homemade Tibetan flag with an image of the Dalai Lama on it when he set himself on fire at the crossroads of the main market, Free Tibet groups said. Eyewitness reports indicate the Chinese police fired three shots at monk Tape after he set himself on fire and at least one of the bullets made contact, the activist group said. His body was removed almost immediately and it is unclear whether he survived the incident. He was in his 20s.
The incident occurred in the Tibetan-populated town of Aba shortly after 1,000 monks were stopped by police from entering Kirti monastery's main prayer hall for Tibetan New Year prayers. The gathering had earlier been banned by Chinese officials as they step up police presence on the streets ahead of the 50-year anniversary of the March uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee.
"There are many policemen on patrol in the street and all of them have guns," an employee at a teahouse in Aba told the AFP news agency.
“China has flooded Tibet with troops and barred all foreigners, actions clearly meant to intimidate and suppress any further expressions of dissent during the New Year and in the lead up to March 10, which will mark 50 years of Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation,” said Dechen Tsering, President of the Tibetan Association of Northern California. “We fear Chinese authorities are preparing for a renewed assault against Tibetans who dare to speak out for their basic rights.”
According to activist groups, dozens of Tibetans from Aba and the surrounding area were killed last year, and many more disappeared and were imprisoned, when protests swept across Tibet. Following the protests, the monks of Kirti monastery were the targets of some of the most extreme torture, abuse and intimidation by Chinese authorities.
Tibet's government-in-exile says 200 Tibetans have been killed since the Chinese regime's crackdown last year. Chinese officials have denied this, reporting that Tibetan “rioters” killed 21 police.
Last fall, the Dalai Lama's efforts to gain autonomy for the Tibetan region were stymied by the Chinese regime, who instead have renewed a “Strike Hard” Campaign in the region in anticipation of unrest in March.
The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate, has lived in exile for around 48 years. During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, ninety percent of the temples were damaged in Tibet.