Tibetan Buddhist monks self-immolate in Lhasa


Tibetan exile Jampa Yeshi runs as he is engulfed in flames after he set himself on fire during a protest in New Delhi on March 26, 2012. A Tibetan exile set himself on fire on Monday during a rally in New Delhi to protest against an upcoming visit to India by Chinese President Hu Jintao, police said.



Two Tibetan Buddhist monks have set themselves on fire in Lhasa, the first reported self-immolations in the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia said in a statement that the monks set themselves on fire on Sunday outside the Jokhang temple, a renowned center for Buddhist pilgrimage in Lhasa.

The temple has been under heavy security since deadly riots broke out in 2008. The self-immolators were believed to be among Tibetan youths gathered to protest against Chinese rule outside the temple.

They were taken away by authorities within minutes of setting themselves on fire, according to RFA, and had reportedly died.

"The security forces arrived immediately and put out the fire and all the tourists in the area were cordoned off from the site," a witness told the broadcaster.

"Within 15 minutes, the area was cleaned and not a trace of the incident was left."

Radio Free Asia quoted a source as saying the situation in Lhasa was now "very tense" and the city was filled with police and paramilitary forces.

One Lhasa resident contacted by Agence France-Presse on Monday reported an increased police presence in the city, adding officers were carrying out identity checks in the street and the mobile signal was blocked.

However, security authorities in Lhasa contacted by telephone refused to comment on the incident.

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The Associated Press wrote that there had been at least 34 self-immolations since March of last year, most of them in heavily Tibetan areas of China, aimed at drawing attention to China's restrictions on Buddhism.

Only one self-immolation had occurred in Tibet itself and none in the capital.

In past instances, the protesters have called for the return from exile of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and for freedom or greater freedoms for Tibet.

Voice of America reported that the two men worked at a Lhasa restaurant called Nyima Ling. It identified one of the men as 19-year-old Dorjee Tseten but was unable to give the name or age of the other.

The two self immolators were reportedly shouting slogans as they were engulfed in flames although it is not clear exactly what they were saying.