Beijing, April 18 (IANS/EFE) A young mother died after setting herself on fire to protest Chinese rule, prompting thousands of people to gather near her home and the monastery where the self-immolation occurred.
Chugtso, 20, set herself ablaze Tuesday near Dzamthang county’s Jonang monastery, in Sichuan province, bringing to 116 the number of people who have killed themselves in this fashion since 2009, Radio Free Asia (RFA) said.
The woman, who leaves behind a husband and a three-year-old son, died shortly after the flames engulfed her near the monastery. Neighbours later carried her remains to her home.
“Local authorities and the security forces later pressured the family to cremate her that night,” RFA said, adding that Chinese officials usually made such demands in the wake of these incidents.
As a show of support, thousands of people from the surrounding area gathered outside Chugtso’s home and the monastery.
The London-based Free Tibet organization noted that the Jonang monastery was the scene of other self-immolations in May 2012, when two other mothers of small children set fire to themselves there.
The organization’s spokesperson described the actions as “protests, not suicides” and said they would continue until China makes amends for the “damage” it has inflicted on the Tibetan population.
Of the 116 cases of people setting themselves on fire since 2009, at least 97 have ended in death. Eighteen such protests have occurred thus far this year.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama and pro-Tibetan independence groups in exile for encouraging the self-immolations, even though the spiritual leader and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate has called for an end to the protests.
China has regarded Tibet as part of its territory for centuries, though Tibetans say the “Roof of the World” was effectively independent until being occupied by the Red Army in the early 1950s.