BEIJING: A teenage Tibetan monk set himself on fire in protest on the 53rd anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, an overseas activist group said Tuesday.
The London-based Free Tibet group said 18-year-old Gepey self-immolated on Saturday in Aba, a town that is under heavy security lockdown in western Sichuan province.
The group says Gepey was a monk from the town's Kirti Monastery, the scene of numerous protests against the Chinese government over the past several years. March 10 marked the start of the unsuccessful revolt that eventually caused the Dalai Lama to flee the Himalayan region in 1959.
More than two dozen Tibetans, including several teenagers, have set themselves on fire in China over the last year, protesting China's suppression of their religion and culture and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama.
Gepey died after self-immolating behind a military camp, Free Tibet said. The group said locals tried to take his body away but security personnel removed it.
A woman from the county Communist Party propaganda department said she had no information about the incident. Calls to the prefectural Communist Party department and police and county police rang unanswered. A man who answered the phone at the Kirti Monastery hung up when he was asked about the self-immolation.
Chinese authorities in Aba refused to allow locals to carry out traditional funeral rites for Gepey so as not to provide an opportunity for Tibetans to gather and protest, Free Tibet said.
Gepey was the third Tibetan this month to self-immolate near a building associated with Chinese authority. Earlier in March, another 18-year-old Tibetan man in the same county set himself on fire and walked to a government office building while a mother similarly protested outside a police station in Aba town.
"We are now witnessing a pattern of Tibetans setting themselves on fire in front of buildings which symbolize China's current crackdown in Tibet," Free Tibet's director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement. "Saturday's self-immolation is the latest in an ever-increasing list of courageous and profound acts which the world cannot continue to ignore."
Tibetans, including a prominent writer in Beijing, have pleaded for an end to the self-immolations, saying they are not helping the cause of Tibetan rights.
The communist government has blamed supporters of the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for encouraging the self-immolations.
The Dalai Lama has said he does not encourage the protests, but he has praised the courage of those who engage in self-immolation and has attributed the protests to what he calls China's "cultural genocide" in Tibet.