China police fire on Tibetans, nun burns to death: group

Reuters News

10/17/2011 11:28:46 PM - Reuters News

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police shot and injured two Tibetan protesters in southwestern China last Sunday, and a Tibetan nun burned herself to death the following day, a group advocating self-determination for Tibet said, the latest in months of protests.

The self-immolation and the protests signal that anger is swelling in Aba county, a mainly ethnic Tibetan part of Sichuan province that has been the center of defiance against Chinese control.

Rights groups say the unrest could provoke Beijing to stage a renewed crackdown in Aba, which erupted in violence in March 2008 when Buddhist monks and other Tibetan people loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama, their traditional religious leader, confronted police and troops.

The condition and whereabouts of the two casualties, Dawa and Druklo, are unknown, the London-based Free Tibet group said.

Elsewhere in Sichuan, a 20-year-old nun, Tenzin Wangmo, set fire to herself on Monday afternoon outside a nunnery, three km (1.8 miles) from Aba county, the ninth self-immolation this year in the Tibetan parts of China, Free Tibet said.

She had called for religious freedom in Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama as she set herself alight, the group said.

Her death comes seven months after a Tibetan Buddhist monk, Phuntsog, 21, from the restive Kirti monastery, burned himself to death. That prompted a crackdown, with security forces detaining about 300 Tibetan monks for a month.

A Sichuan government propaganda official surnamed Yuan told Reuters that she knew "nothing about the two cases so far."

Free Tibet said that it was not known why security personnel opened fire on Dawa and Druklo, adding that one was shot in the leg and the other, in the torso. It did not specify who suffered what injury.

"Information from Tibet suggests there are more who are willing to give their lives, determined to draw global attention to the persistent and brutal violations Tibetans suffer under Chinese occupation," Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement sent late on Monday.

"The acts of self-immolation are not taking place in isolation, protests have been reported in the surrounding region and calls for wider protests are growing."

Brigden said that the group has "grave concerns that greater force may be deployed if protests spread."

Nine ethnic Tibetans, eight of them from Aba prefecture, have burned themselves since March to protest against religious controls by the Chinese government, which labels the Dalai Lama a violent separatist, charges he strongly denies.

However, the protests have yet to spread to what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region, which Beijing has controlled since Communist troops marched in 1950. It says its rule has bought much needed development to a poor and backward region.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Additional reporting by Huang Yan, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)