Lifestyle & Belief

Tibetan nun self-immolates in China, as protests escalate, Free Tibet says


A Tibetan Buddhist nun looks through a line of prayer flags at the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu on October 5, 2009.


Prakash Mathema

A Tibetan nun has reportedly died after setting herself on fire in a Tibetan town in southwestern China, the first known to have killed herself in this way but the latest in a a series of self-immolations among the region's Buddhist clergy.

The London-based Free Tibet campaign group said Tuesday that Tenzin Wangmo, 20, had been calling for religious freedom in Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama.

She set fire to herself outside Dechen Chokorling Nunnery in Sichuan province's Aba prefecture on Monday, the Associated Press reports.

She died at the scene.

China's Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing told CNN it was not aware of the incident.

The nun's death came a day after security forces shot and wounded two Tibetans during a weekend protest in another part of Sichuan, Ganzi, home to a large population of ethnic Tibetans, AFP reports.

Free Tibet said in a statement:

"Protests in Tibet are spreading. Two Tibetans were shot by Chinese security personnel during a protest against Chinese occupation on 16 October and a Tibetan nun died after setting herself on fire on 17 October. She is the ninth Tibetan to have self-immolated.

More people are reported to be ready to give their lives in protest. The situation is extremely tense. Tibetans are taking their lives or risking imprisonment by sharing information determined to draw attention to one of the world’s greatest and longest-standing human rights crisis."

Of the nine monks or former monks to commit self-immolation in protest against Chinese rule since March, five have died, Free Tibet says.

Rights groups fear the unrest in Aba county could provoke Beijing to stage a renewed crackdown, Reuters reports. The region "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."