News / Asia

Tibetan Sets Himself on Fire at Buddhist Shrine

Nepalese bystanders (top) look at the area where a Tibetan exile set himself on fire at Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Aug. 6, 2013.
Nepalese bystanders (top) look at the area where a Tibetan exile set himself on fire at Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Aug. 6, 2013.
VOA News
A Tibetan man has died after setting himself on fire at a Buddhist shrine in Nepal's capital, in what appears to be the latest self-immolation protest against China's rule of Tibet.

Eyewitnesses and police say the man set himself on fire early Tuesday near Kathmandu's Boudhanath Stupa, one of Tibetan Buddhism's holiest sites and the site of a self-immolation earlier this year.

The man's identity and condition are unknown, but pictures being circulated by Tibetans show a badly charred body lying in a gutter outside the shrine.

Tibet self-immolations, updated June 11, 2013Tibet self-immolations, updated June 11, 2013
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Tibet self-immolations, updated June 11, 2013
Tibet self-immolations, updated June 11, 2013
An American researcher who lives nearby told VOA police moved in quickly to take away the body and restore calm to the area.

"I arrived at the scene at about 8:00 a.m. It looked like activity had returned to normal very quickly. By that time, there were only a couple of police at the stupa, so it seems like they came and went fairly quickly and they took the body."

The researcher, who does not wish to be identified for security reasons, said the man was taken to a nearby hospital. She said many Tibetans are worried the man's family will have a difficult time gaining access to the body.

Earlier this year, a Tibetan exile died after setting himself on fire near the Boudhanath Stupa. The monk's body was quickly cremated by authorities before Buddhist religious rituals could be carried out.

About 20,000 Tibetans refugees have left Chinese rule for neighboring Nepal, where they are under increasing restrictions by Nepalese authorities. Many live in the area near the Boudhanath Stupa, which is surrounded by Buddhist monasteries.

Over 120 Tibetans inside their homeland and surrounding areas have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest what locals describe as Chinese interference in Tibetan customs and religious practices.  

Protesters have also sought to bring attention to demands for the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of inciting the protests.

The Dalai Lama has discouraged the self-immolations, but says they are taking place because the Tibetan people are living in fear of Chinese authorities.

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