AP, New Delhi: A Tibetan exile lit himself on fire and ran shouting
through a protest in the Indian capital on Monday, just ahead of a visit
by China’s president and following self-immolations in the Himalayan
region against Beijing’s rule.
The protester apparently had doused himself with something highly
flammable and was engulfed in flames when he ran past the podium where
speakers were criticizing China and the visit by President Hu Jintao.
Fellow activists beat out the flames with Tibetan flags and poured water
onto him. He was on fire perhaps less than two minutes, but some of his
clothing disintegrated and his skin was mottled with black, burned patches
by the time he was driven to a hospital.
The man, identified as Jampa Yeshi, sustained burns on 85 percent of his
body and his condition was critical, a senior police officer said. He
spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to
Protesters initially prevented police from taking him to the hospital, but
officers eventually forcibly took him away.
Yeshi, 27, escaped from Tibet in 2006 and had been living in New Delhi for
the past two years, activists said.
Hu is expected to arrive in India on Tuesday for a five-nation economic
While activists had been whispering on Monday morning that something
dramatic was expected at
the protest, organizers insisted they were not behind the self-immolation.
“We have no idea how this happened, but we appreciate the courage,” said
Tenzing Norsang, an official with the Tibetan Youth Congress. He called on
the international community to talk about Tibet at the summit.
“If you care about peace you should raise the issue of Tibet,” he said.
“Hu Jintao is responsible for what is happening there.”
The New Delhi protest comes amid a series of self-immolations inside
Tibet. About 30 people – many of them monks or nuns, and often in their
teens or early 20s – have lit themselves on fire over the past year,
calling for the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama and to protest Chinese
rule over their homeland. The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet amid a failed
1959 uprising against Chinese rule, has blamed China’s “ruthless policy”
for the self-immolations. China accuses the Dalai Lama of stirring up
At the site of the protest, a large poster of Hu – with a bloody palm
print over his face – said: “Hu Jin Tao is unwelcome” at the summit.
More than 600 demonstrators marched across New Delhi to a central plaza
near the Indian Parliament to protest Hu’s visit. Some carried posters
saying “Tibet is burning” or “Tibet is not part of China.”
China says Tibet has always been part of its territory. Tibetans say the
Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.
Monday’s was the second self-immolation in India in recent months. Last
year, a young Tibetan exile set himself on fire outside the Chinese
Embassy. That man suffered minor burns.
“This is what China faces unless they give freedom to Tibet,” said Tenzin
Dorjee, a young onlooker.
Hu will be attending a summit this week of the leaders of Brazil, Russia,
India, China and South Africa, who form a grouping known as BRICS.
Police in New Delhi are bracing for protests by the tens of thousands of
Tibetan exiles who live in India. Security around the summit location has
been tightened, and roads leading to the hotel will be closed to the
public a day ahead of the meeting.