Tibetan Farmer Self-Immolates in China


A young Tibetan farmer has self-immolated in southwest China in protest against China's presence in Tibet, campaigners said, the first Tibetan to set themselves on fire in 2017. 

Pema Gyaltsen set himself ablaze on Saturday outside a Buddhist temple in Sichuan province, the Tibetan government in exile in India said in a statement, adding that the unmarried 24-year-old "called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for freedom in Tibet."

The group said he was the 146th Tibetan to self-immolate since 2009. 

Contacted by AFP on Monday, local police said they were unable to confirm any information on the case.  

Rights group Free Tibet said Gyaltsen "was unable to complete the self-immolation before the police arrived and looked to have been alive when he was taken away."

If he survived, Gyaltsen would "most likely face harsh treatment in detention with no guarantee of medical treatment, followed by a long prison sentence," the group said in a statement late Sunday. 

Beijing says its troops "peacefully liberated" Tibet in 1951, but many Tibetans accuse the central government of religious repression and eroding their culture.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled into exile after a failed uprising in 1959.

Tibetan monks within China have reported a campaign of government intimidation targeting the family and friends of those who set themselves on fire.