BEIJING (AP) — An overseas group said Monday that a Tibetan Buddhist monk died after setting himself on fire outside a monastery in western China, and more than 1,000 people were trying to prevent police from taking his body away.
Eighteen-year-old Nangdrol self-immolated on Sunday in Sichuan province after shouting slogans in favor of Tibetan independence and exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, the London-based International Campaign for Tibet said.
His death brings to at least 21 the number of Tibetans who have set themselves on fire over the past year — including one on Friday. The acts are among increasingly radical protests against Chinese government controls over Tibetan society and the Buddhist religion.
Following Nangdrol's death, police demanded that his body be handed over, but monks at his Samdrup Norbu Ling monastery in Aba prefecture in Sichuan refused, the ICT said, citing Tibetan monks based in India. More than 1,000 people gathered at the monastery overnight to stand guard over the body, it said.
Chinese security has cut off access to Tibetan areas, making it virtually impossible to independently confirm such acts. Calls to local government and Communist Party offices rang unanswered on Monday.
China blames Dalai Lama supporters for encouraging the self-immolations and other anti-government protests that have led to the deaths of an unknown number of Tibetans at the hands of police.
However, the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile has issued statements discouraging self-immolation, including a statement Saturday expressing concern and shock and saying that any protests should be peaceful, dignified and "in accordance with the laws of your country."
Activists say Tibetans are being pushed into ever-more radical acts because of intense pressure from China's police and military, who maintain a highly visible presence in towns and occupy monasteries while forcing monks to endure hours of political indoctrination at the expense of their religious studies.
On Sunday, an overseas Tibetan news service reported Chinese police had taken Tibetan writer Gangkye Drubpa Kyab from his home in the main town of Sichuan's Serthar county on Wednesday night and he has not been released.
Citing a Tibetan politician living in exile, the Norway-based Voice of Tibet said that when Drubpa Kyab's wife asked for a warrant, police told her they wanted to talk with her husband.
Police and government officials in Serthar and in Ganzi, the Sichuan province prefecture that administers Serthar, either could not be reached by telephone Sunday or said they had not heard about the case.
In Serthar, also known as Seda, Tibetan protesters clashed with security forces last month, leaving at least two Tibetans dead. The government said the protesters had attacked a police station. It was not known whether Drubpa Kyab was involved in the protests.
A Tibetan writer living in Beijing, Woeser, said on her much-read blog that she was familiar with the 33-year-old Drubpa Kyab's writings. She said that he is a Serthar native and has been a teacher and writer there for 10 years.
He would be at least the second cultural figure to be detained in the latest wave of arrests. Dawa Dorje, described as a civil servant and advocate for promoting traditional Tibetan music and culture, was reportedly arrested two weeks ago.