KATMANDU (Reuters) - A Tibetan exile in Nepal set himself on fire on Thursday, police said, the latest of a wave of Tibetan self-immolations, mainly in China, protesting Beijing’s controls on their religion and culture.
The protestor, whose name is unknown, was carrying a Tibetan flag and chanting “Long live Tibet” before setting his clothes alight in Baudha, a prominent Tibetan area of Katmandu, police officer Shyam Lal Gyawali told Reuters.
“I saw his clothes were burned but soon some other Tibetan looking men overpowered him, extinguished the fire and took him away,” said Dhuwas Tamang, a private security guard who witnessed the event.
The man suffered no serious injuries, both witnesses said.
At least 11 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze this year in a China’s southwestern Sichuan province that has become a focus of defiance against Beijing’s rule.
China has blamed the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, for inciting the incidents.
“These actions challenge the human conscience and moral bottom line,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing. “Such schemes will not succeed.”
“The majority of people in religious fields believe life should be cherished and the right principles of Buddhism should be returned to,” added Hong.
Nepal, home to more than 20,000 Tibetans, is under pressure from Beijing, a key trade partner and donor, to crackdown on any “anti-China” activities by the Tibetans.
Kathmandu says the Tibetans are free to stay but must not engage in protests against its giant communist neighbour.
Last week, a Tibetan activist suffered burns to his legs when he set himself on fire outside the Chinese embassy in India, where Tibet’s government in exile operates from a mountain town in the north of the country.
One of Tibet’s most senior exiled Buddhist leaders, the Karmapa Lama, appealed on Wednesday for Tibetans in China not to set themselves on fire, saying he hoped they found more constructive ways to advance their cause.
The immolations inside China have happened in two heavily Tibetan parts of Sichuan -- Ganzi and Aba -- where many see themselves as members of a wider Tibetan region encompassing the official Tibetan Autonomous Region and other areas across the vast highlands of China’s west.
Beijing says the Dalai Lama is a dangerous separatist, charges he strongly denies, insisting he seeks only genuine autonomy for Tibet through peaceful means.
Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by Henry Foy; Editing by Ed Lane