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New Footage Depicts Self-Immolation in Tibet

An exiled Tibetan woman cries after Jampa Yeshi, a Tibetan self immolated during a protest, in New Delhi, India ( File- March 26, 2012.)

A pro-Tibetan advocacy group says it has obtained video of one of the dozens of Tibetans who have set themselves on fire this year to protest against China's repressive rule.

Self-immolation History

  • Self-immolation has a long history of being used as a political tool around the world. The act is one of desperation, with incidents in Asia, Eastern Europe, North Africa and the United States.

The International Campaign for Tibet says the video shows the self-immolation of Losang Jamyang on the streets of the western Chinese city of Aba back in January as witnesses look on in horror. The footage shows the man running in circles while engulfed in flames, before a police officer knocks him to the ground using a pushcart. Other officers then converge on the man and douse him with fire extinguishers.

Some of these images may be disturbing.

Tibetan advocacy groups say more than 30 people have set themselves on fire in Tibet over the past year, mostly Buddhist monks and nuns. Kate Saunders, the ICT's London-based communications director, tells VOA the video of Losang Jamyang's self-immolation challenges the very idea of China's legitimacy in the region.

"The self-immolations have raised the stakes in Tibet, both in terms of increased global attention and also in the context of change inside China itself. These self-immolations, like the one that you can see so vividly in the footage, are a dramatic and a visible counter to the claims of the Chinese communist party to be improving Tibetan lives," said Saunders.

Saunders says the group has obtained several videos of self-immolations smuggled out of Tibet from exiled Tibetan sources, but notes this is the first one depicting a fatality.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, recently told reporters there are indications that China is ready to push through political reforms in Tibet. "I think here, one hopeful sign is that Wen Jiabao, last few years, in numbers of locations he expressed that People's Republic of China needs some political reform and in one location he even extended that China needs the western style of democracy," he stated.

The Chinese government has described the self-immolations as barbaric and terrorists acts. It accuses overseas groups and the Dalai Lama of inciting separatism. Beijing also has also portrayed those who have set themselves on fire as outcasts and criminals.