Jeff Jacoby

Near The Kirti Monastary in a Tibetan area of China's Sichuan province, 21-year-old Lobsang Jamyang publicly set himself on fire last Saturday. It was the fourth time this month that a Tibetan protesting Chinese repression had resorted to self-immolation. When local residents attempted to retrieve his body from the police, Chinese security forces fired into the crowd, reportedly wounding two.

So far little is known about this latest Tibetan to burn himself alive. A few days earlier, however, a 42-year-old "Living Buddha" -- a prominent Tibetan monk named Sonam Wangyal -- swallowed and doused himself with kerosene, then set himself aflame in the western province of Quinghai. Sonam was an admired spiritual leader who had run an orphanage and a home for the elderly, and was regarded as the reincarnation of a high-ranking lama. Radio Free Asia reported that before immolating himself, he prayed and burned incense on a hilltop, and distributed leaflets calling his death a protest "for Tibet and the happiness of Tibetans."

The Chinese Communist Party crudely suggested that Sonam had killed himself after being discovered having an affair with a married woman. Such vulgar insults say more about the regime that spreads them than about the martyrs it seeks to defame. So does Beijing's propaganda accusing the Dalai Lama -- the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate -- of orchestrating the self-immolations.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for