Monk immolates himself; major protests at Tibetan monastery violently suppressed

Peaceful protests were violently suppressed today at Kirti monastery in the Ngaba area of Tibet after a young monk set himself on fire and later died.

The 20-year old monk, called Phuntsog, immolated himself earlier today, which is the 3rd anniversary of a protest at Kirti in 2008 during which at least 10 Tibetans were shot dead. Police extinguished the flames and were seen beating Phuntsog before he died, according to Tibetan exiles in contact with Tibetans in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Amdo).

According to the same sources, protests then broke out against the Chinese authorities involving hundreds of monks and laypeople. After an attempted peaceful march from the monastery, police broke up the protests, detaining an unknown number of monks and beating Tibetans involved.

Some monks took Phuntsog’s body back to the monastery, according to the same sources. A monk from Kirti monastery in exile in Dharamsala said: “I was told that many of the monks at Kirti monastery would rather die than allow Phuntsog’s dead body to be passed onto the Chinese authorities. Now, the whole monastery of Kirti is surrounded by armed Chinese military and I am told that some phone connections have been cut.”

“The single tragic and desperate act of this young monk and the hostile response by Chinese authorities is a sufficient reminder that a resolution of grievances is urgently needed if there is to be peace and justice in Tibet,” said Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

This is the second self-immolation by a Kirti monk following the crackdown that was imposed after the demonstrations in March, 2008. Tapey, a monk in his mid-twenties, set himself on fire on February 27, 2009 as a form of protest after local authorities told monks at Kirti monastery that they were not allowed to observe Monlam, a traditional prayer festival that is held after Tibetan New Year (Losar).

According to several sources from the area, police opened fire on Tapey as he was surrounded by flames. The official Chinese press reported the incident, but denied reports that police had opened fire on Tapey. Tapey survived, but was taken into custody and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Updated reports on the incident will be available as information emerges at www.savetibet.org.

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