Beijing: A young mother and a student have
become the latest people to set themselves on fire in protest
against Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, a US broadcaster said
US government-backed Radio Free Asia said the 32-year-old
mother and the female student died after separately immolating
in different provinces over the weekend.
More than 20 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in the
last year to protest what they say are harsh Chinese policies
that do not allow them to freely practice their religion.
The reported deaths came on the eve of the opening of
China's annual legislative session, a time when security is
tightened across the country.
March is also a sensitive time for Tibet, marking several
anniversaries, including that of the unsuccessful revolt
against China that caused Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai
Lama to flee in 1959, and deadly anti-government riots that
rocked the Tibetan capital Lhasa in 2008.
The student set herself ablaze Saturday at a vegetable
market in Gansu province's Maqu county and died at the scene,
the report said, without giving the girl's name or age.
Chinese market vendors threw stones at the girl's burning
body, the broadcaster said, citing an unidentified Tibetan
exile with connections to the community in Maqu. It didn't say
why they attacked her.
The girl was described as a middle school student, but it
was unclear whether she was in regular middle school, where
students range from 13 to 16 years old, or senior middle
school, where students can be up to 19. Calls to local Maqu
schools rang unanswered.
Yesterday, a woman identified only as Rinchen set herself
on fire in front of a police station by the main gate to the
Kirti Monastery in Aba prefecture in Sichuan province. Radio
Free Asia said she was a mother of three young children. A
report Sunday by the London-based Free Tibet group said
Rinchen had four children.
Radio Free Asia reported that Rinchen called for the
Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and freedom for Tibet as she set
herself alight, quoting an exiled Tibetan monk in India,
Tibetan areas are mostly off-limits to foreign media and
it was not possible to immediately confirm the claims.
A woman who answered the phone at the local Communist
Party propaganda office in Aba declined to comment or give her
name and referred calls to provincial authorities, who could
not immediately be reached.
A police official in Maqu said she was unaware of the
report involving the student and hung up.
First Published: Monday, March 05, 2012, 17:54