( Students For A Free Tibet via APTN / Associated Press ) - This image from video footage released by Students For A Free Tibet via APTN purports to show Buddhist nun Palden Choetso engulfed in flames in her self-immolation protest against Chinese rule on a street in Tawu, Tibetan Ganzi prefecture, in China’s Sichuan Province Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011.
BEIJING — A Tibetan rights group has released graphic video of what it says is a Buddhist nun engulfed in flames on a city street in one of several apparent self-immolation protests against Chinese rule.
The video, released Monday by Students for a Free Tibet, purports to show Palden Choetso, whose death on Nov. 3 in predominantly Tibetan Ganzi prefecture in Sichuan province had previously been reported.
The video shows a woman in nun’s robes standing on a street corner covered in bright red flames. She collapses to the ground after about 15 seconds.
Additional footage shows about 10,000 mourners gathering at a monastery for a candlelight vigil on Nov. 6 to pay their respects to the 35-year-old nun while about 1,000 monks and nuns hold prayers inside.
The video also shows Chinese security forces in riot gear shadowing monks and nuns taking part in a protest march, and a column of armored paramilitary police patrol vehicles traveling down a country road. The New York-based Students of a Free Tibet said it obtained the video from sources in the region.
China restricts journalists’ access to Tibetan areas of western China and to Tibet itself, and it is nearly impossible to verify statements about conditions there.
At least 11 monks, nuns, and former monks have self-immolated this year in what are seen as acts of desperation in the face of tightening controls over Tibetan life and Buddhist culture.
Most ignited the flames while calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
China claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.
Authorities routinely deny Tibetan claims of repression, although they have confirmed some cases of self-immolations and accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of encouraging such acts. The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in India say they oppose all violence.
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Buddhist monks at a monastery in Shanba township, one of many in China's restive southwestern Sichuan province.
Hong Kong (CNN) — A Buddhist nun in southwest China has died after setting herself on fire, the 11th Tibetan — and second nun — to self-immolate since March.
The death of the nun, identified as Qiu Xiang, was reported by state-run Xinhua and confirmed by exile groups.
The 35-year old set herself on fire at a road crossing in Dawu County, in the Ganzi region of Sichuan Province, the South China Morning Post said, citing Xinhua.
It was unclear why she killed herself, though Tibetan campaign groups say it was in protest against Chinese rule.
But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed the incident related to “pro-Tibetan independence forces” overseas.
“Everyone knows that nowadays, except for the very few evil cults and extremist forces, all religions advocate respect for human life and oppose violence,” said spokesperson Hong Lei.
“It is a challenge to the moral bottom line of all human beings if, instead of condemning the extreme act of self-immolation, some people are hyping or instigating it.”
According to the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), which advocates Tibetan independence, Palden Choetso — Qiu’s Tibetan name — called for freedom and the return from exile of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, as she was burning.
Her body was then taken by fellow nuns into the Ganden Choeling nunnery in Tawu, the ICT said.
Six of the 11Tibetans — all monks or former monks — who have set themselves ablaze died from their injuries.
Most of the suicide attempts occurred in Aba Prefecture and the Kirti monastery, also in Sichuan, which has become a focal point for ethnic Tibetans angry at the erosion of their culture.
Last month, a nun in Ngaba County, Sichuan Province, became the first Tibetan woman known to have killed herself. Free Tibet said Tenzin Wangmo, 20, died outside the Dechen Chokorling Nunnery. The State Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing told CNN they were not aware of the incident.
Activists and exiled Tibetans say the disturbing acts reflect an increasingly repressive environment under Beijing’s control.
“The incidents are a clear indication of the genuine grievances of the Tibetans and their sense of deep resentment and despair over the prevailing conditions in Tibet,” said new Tibetan leader in exile, Lobsang Sangay, in quotes carried by Free Tibet.
“It is therefore of the utmost urgency that every possible effort be made to address the underlying root causes of Tibetan grievances and resentment.”
A statement from the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India read: “The Kashag (Cabinet) would like to make it clear that it stands in solidarity with the Tibetan people in Tibet who endure continued suppression under the Chinese authorities, whose short-sighted policies have driven till now eleven Tibetans to set themselves on fire.
“Instead of addressing the real problems that drive Tibetans to commit self-immolation, Xinhua, the official news organ of the Chinese government, blames the Tibetans-in-exile for instigating such desperate and despairing acts.
“The Kashag strongly urges the Chinese government to stop hurling baseless allegations and to start solving the real problems. (The) People’s Republic of China can do this by stopping its repressive policy on Tibet and allowing more freedom of religion and speech.”
Prominent Tibetan writer and activist Tsering Woeser told CNN this kind of protest will continue as long as the Chinese government’s Tibet policy remains the same.
“If there is no improvement Tibetans will feel it’s better to die than be alive. They commit suicide to protest,” she said.
“The international community should impose pressure and condemn the Chinese government,” she added. “But so far, the pressure is not enough, the international community only appeals to Chinese government but there are no real actions such as economic boycott.”
In an interview with CNN last month, Woeser said Tibetan Buddhists can’t use violence against others to protest, so they harm themselves to people pay attention to their plight.
“This is not suicide. This is sacrifice in order to draw the world’s attention,” she said.
China rejects accusations of oppression of Tibetans, saying its rule has greatly improved living standards for the Tibetan people.
The Dalai Lama’s representative signed an agreement with Beijing in 1951 to affirm China’s sovereignty over Tibet but also grant autonomy to the area. A failed uprising against Beijing’s rule in 1959 forced the Dalai Lama into exile.
The Dalai Lama denies seeking independence for Tibet, saying he wants genuine autonomy, under which Tibetans can make their own policies on key issues, such as religious practices.
In a 2008 uprising, violent unrest in Tibet and the subsequent military crackdown left at least 18 dead, and activists say tensions have remained high in many areas since then.
CNN’s Haolan Hong and Xiaoni Chen contributed to this report.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 6:04 am
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