China arrests Tibetan in new tactic against self-immolation

BEIJING Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:50am IST

A child gestures at the feet of protesters holding a sign commemorating victims of self-immolation during a solidarity march from the Chinese Consulate to the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in support of Tibet in New York December 10, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

A child gestures at the feet of protesters holding a sign commemorating victims of self-immolation during a solidarity march from the Chinese Consulate to the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in support of Tibet in New York December 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Files

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have arrested a Tibetan man for allegedly encouraging a monk to burn himself to death, state media said on Thursday, as part of a new tactic to discourage suicide protests against Chinese rule.

Nearly 100 Tibetans, including monks, nuns and high school students, have burned themselves to death in public over the past two years. Increased Chinese security deployments across the Tibetan plateau have done little to halt the series of self-immolations.

Police in Tongren county of Qinghai province accuse Phagpa, 27, of encouraging a 25-year-old monk named Drolma Je to self-immolate, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Police thwarted the suicide sttempt and have charged Drolma Je with endangering public security, after gasoline was found in his hotel room.

Such charges appear to be a new tactic by authorities. Last week, seven Tibetans in neighboring Gansu province were arrested on charges of inciting others to burn themselves to death.

China blames exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for masterminding the protests.

The Tibetan government in exile, loyal to the Dalai Lama, has been careful not to encourage the practice in its public statements.

Phagpa had studied in India. Upon his return to Tongren, an ethnically Tibetan area that has many monasteries, he worked at an orphanage while also teaching English and computer courses, according to Xinhua.

Police say Phagpa belonged to the "Snow Tradition Cultural Service Group", which attended funerals and donated money to the families of Tibetans who died after self-immolation, according to Xinhua.

They also accuse him of maintaining contact with the Tibetan Youth Congress, an organization of exiles.

Exile groups have said Tibetans who return to China after studying in India are held in particular suspicion in the Chinese crackdown on suspected separatists that began after protests rocked the Tibetan plateau in March 2008.

(Reporting by Lucy Hornby; editing by Andrew Roche)

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