Monk commits self-immolation to protest against China's occupation of Tibet

By Jigmey Bhutia for the International Business Times

A Tibetan monk set himself on fire and died to protest against China's occupation of Tibet. Kalsang Wangdu is the first person in Tibet to have immolated himself this year.

With Wangdu's death, the total number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China will rise to 114. Chinese government agencies have not confirmed his death.

According to Radio Free Asia's (RFA) Tibetan Service, Wangdu set himself on fire on 29 February near his monastery - Retsokha Aryaling – in Kardze under the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture's Nyagrong county.

"[While Kalsang Wangdu burned], he called out for Tibet's complete independence," a source told RFA. Witnesses to the incident intervened and took him to Sichuan's provincial capital for medical treatment but he died on the way before reaching Chengdu, the source said.

Tibetans started to immolate themselves in 2009 when a wave of protests broke out demanding freedom for Tibet and return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has been living in India since he was forced to flee Tibet in 1959.

On the same day Wangdu committed self-immolation, a Tibetan boy aged 16 set himself on fire in India to protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. Dorje Tsering immolated himself in Dehra Dun, the capital of the northern state of Uttarakhand.

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[Note: The Central Tibetan Administration cites a higher number of self-immolations by Tibetans, compiling statistics since 2009.]