Tibetan exile who set self on fire in India dies

AP News
Posted: Mar 28, 2012 6:25 AM
Tibetan exile who set self on fire in India dies

A Tibetan exile who set himself on fire in India to protest a visit by China's president died Wednesday, while hundreds of other activists were being detained.

Jamphel Yeshi, 27, set himself alight Monday at a demonstration in New Delhi. He ran screaming past other protesters and the media before falling to the ground, his clothing partly disintegrated and nearly his entire body covered in burns.

"Martyr Jamphel Yeshi's sacrifice will be written in golden letters in the annals of our freedom struggle," said Dhondup Lhadar, an activist with the Tibetan Youth Congress. "He will live on to inspire and encourage the future generations of Tibetans."

About 30 people have set themselves on fire over the past year in ethnic Tibetan areas of China in protest against Beijing's heavy-handed rule in Tibet. Activists say China's crackdown is so oppressive in those areas, Tibetans have no other way to voice their protests.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Senate panel passed a nonbinding resolution mourning the deaths and calling on China to end what it describes as repressive policies targeting Tibetans.

Beijing has blamed the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India for decades, for inciting the self-immolations and has called the protesters' actions a form of terrorism.

"This is his last attempt to force the Chinese central government to allow his return to Tibet," Li Xiaojun, an official with the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, wrote Wednesday in the Hindustan Times newspaper.

President Hu Jintao is in New Delhi for a summit for the BRICS summit that includes India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa on Thursday.

Wednesday also marked the day China calls Serfs Emancipation Day, when in 1958 government troops took control of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama fled into exile.

Indian police and soldiers have orders to restrict the movement of New Delhi's Tibetan population while Hu is in town, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said. Police have surrounded the city's Tibetan neighborhoods, erecting barricades and refusing to allow young people to leave, except for medical or court appointments under police escort.

Hundreds of Tibetan activists have been rounded up, including poet Tenzin Tsundue, who had just finished speaking to the Tibetan Woman's Association when he was taken into custody Tuesday night under laws that allow "preventative detention."

He "has a long history of protesting at such events," Bhagat said.

Activists condemned the crackdown.

"This action is unlawful and a complete surrender to the Chinese pressure and the surrender of our own national pride," Indian intellectual Rajiv Vora said in a statement.

Many activists had managed to evade the police cordons and were trying to stage protests across the city, said Tenzin Choekyi of the Tibetan Youth Congress. At least a dozen were taken into custody Wednesday morning as they tried to reach a United Nations office where they planned to demonstrate.

The group said a grand funeral "deserving of a martyr" is planned for Yeshi in the Tibetan exiled community's headquarters of Dharmsala, in the northern India. He is survived by his mother and four siblings, all of whom live in Tibet.


Follow Katy Daigle on Twitter at http://twitter.com/katydaigle