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Tibetan Self-Immolator Described as Dedicated to Preserving His Culture

Map of self-immolations in Tibet, or near Tibet
Map of self-immolations in Tibet, or near Tibet

A relative of the Tibetan man who self-immolated last week says Lhamo Tashi was a student dedicated to preserving his Tibetan heritage.

The relative, who spoke to VOA on the condition that he not be identified, said Tashi's family was informed of his death by security services. But when they went to reclaim the body, he had already been cremated.

Information on the death only emerged Sunday, as Chinese authorities usually clamp down on communication following such incidents.

The relative said Monday that it is still hard to get information from the area in Gansu Province. "It is very difficult to contact his family members, or anyone in the... area, due to the heightened security in the area. This makes the current situation impossible to access," he said.

He added that he is not sure if the young man "left any notes before the self-immolation."

Tashi set himself on fire last Wednesday while shouting slogans against Chinese rule in Tibet in front of a police station.

More than 130 Tibetans have burned themselves since the self-immolation protests began in 2009. The Tibetans are protesting what they say is Chinese repression of their culture and religion. China denies the charges and says the suicide protests are acts of terrorism.

The Tibetan government in exile has urged Tibetans not to take such drastic action, and the U.S. government has called on China to resolve the Tibetan issue with the resumption of dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.