Tibetan monk's suicide try seen in leaked video

AP News
Posted: Oct 23, 2011 5:24 AM
Tibetan monk's suicide try seen in leaked video

A teenage Tibetan monk lies partially clothed on the street, his lower legs smoking from setting himself on fire, in a video leaked out of China by exiles who say it was one of several self-immolations in protest of Chinese rule over the region.

At least nine Tibetans in their late teens and 20s have set themselves on fire since March, with five or more of them dying from their injuries.

The exiles said the man in the video is Lobsang Konchok, who tried to set himself on fire Sept. 26 at Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province's Aba prefecture, where tensions between monks and the authorities have been high for months.

Chinese state media reported at the time that Lobsang and a second monk both tried to self-immolate. They reported police rescued the men, who were stable with superficial burns afterward.

The shaky 34-second video begins after the fire was doused and shows white fire extinguisher residue covering Lobsang and the ground around him. A woman screams in Tibetan in the background and a police car and several uniformed People's Armed Police officers are visible behind his prone body, but do not appear to assist him.

One officer then approaches the camera and says in Chinese, "No filming," before the video ends. The Associated Press released the video Sunday.

The individuals who shared it with AP did so on condition of anonymity for fear the videographer and those who helped get the video out of China could be punished by the Chinese government.

The website of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile says Lobsang is 19 and his present condition is unknown.

Aba prefecture has been the scene of numerous protests over the past several years against the Chinese government. Most are led by monks who are fiercely loyal to Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled the Himalayan region in 1959 amid an abortive anti-Beijing uprising and is reviled by China's communist government.

China's Foreign Ministry has condemned the immolations and accused the Dalai Lama's supporters of encouraging them. Last week, ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu called such alleged support "violence and terrorism in disguise."

Thupten Samphal, spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile, denied the Dalai Lama had encouraged Tibetans to burn themselves and said the spiritual leader considers suicide a form of violence.

"What the Tibetans in Tibet are trying to do by burning themselves is to try to attempt to draw international attention to the really grim situation in Tibet," he said Saturday. "There has been increased repression in all the monasteries in Tibet."

Tensions in Tibetan areas are being exacerbated by government actions, said Kate Saunders, London-based communications director for the advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet. These actions include the imprisonment and expulsion of monks from Kirti, torture, the killing of laypeople who seek to defend the monasteries, and the disruption of normal Buddhist practices.

"The desperate acts of these individuals are a terrible indictment of China's Tibet policy and force us to confront the unthinkable repression being endured by Tibetans" in Western China, Saunders said.