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Tibetan exile sets himself on fire at China protest

Demonstrators took to the streets of Delhi to protest an upcoming visit by the Chinese president.

Tibetans protesting in Taiwan earlier this month.
Tibetans protesting in Taiwan earlier this month.
Image: AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying/PA

A TIBETAN EXILE lit himself on fire at a demonstration today in the Indian capital ahead of a visit by China’s president.

It is the latest in a dramatic string of often deadly protests against Beijing’s rule of the Himalayan region.

The protester was engulfed in flames as he ran near the speakers at the rally near the Indian Parliament. Graphic photographs from the scene show activists beating out the flames with Tibetan flags they were carrying, while others poured water on him.

The protester, identified as Jampa Yeshi, was being treated for severe burns at a New Delhi hospital, a Tibetan organiser said.

At least 30 people in Tibetan areas of China have set themselves on fire over the past year to protest Beijing’s rule over their homeland. The Dalai Lama has blamed China’s “ruthless policy” for the self-immolations, while China accuses the Dalai Lama of stirring up trouble.

China says Tibet has always been part of its territory. Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.

Today’s incident was the second self-immolation in India in recent months. Late last year, a young Tibetan exile set himself on fire outside the Chinese Embassy and suffered minor burns.

Chinese visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected to arrive in India later this week for a meeting of the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, who form a grouping known as BRICS.

More than 600 protesters, carrying banners and posters marched across New Delhi to a central plaza near the Indian Parliament to protest the visit. Some carried posters saying “Tibet is burning” and “Tibet is not part of China.”

As speakers addressed the crowd, Yeshi set himself ablaze and ran across the venue. He ran nearly 50 metres before he collapsed.

Protesters initially prevented police from taking the man to the hospital, but policemen eventually forcibly took him away.

“This is what China faces unless they give freedom to Tibet,” said Tenzin Dorjee, a young onlooker.

Yeshi sustained burns on 85 per cent of his body and his condition was critical, a senior police officer said. He was speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Yeshi, 26, escaped from Tibet five years ago and had been living in a Tibetan neighborhood in Delhi, the officer said.

Police in New Delhi are bracing themselves for renewed protests during the meeting by Tibetan exiles who live in India. Security around the hotel where the meeting is to take place has been tightened, and roads leading to the hotel will be closed to the public a day ahead of the meeting.

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Associated Press

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