By Bill Smith –
BEIJING — A middle-aged Tibetan man died after he set fire to himself in northwestern China’s Gansu province on Tuesday, the third such protest in the county in the last four days, Tibetan exiles reported.
Tibetan onlookers prevented police from taking away the man after he set fire to himself about 4 p.m. in the county of Xiahe, known as Sangchu in Tibetan, the Indian-based Voice of Tibet and the Tibetan exile government reported on their websites.
Local authorities deployed a “huge number” of security officers after the self-immolation and suspended telecommunications, the reports said.
The two reports said the man had set fire to himself outside a police station, but other reports said he made his protest near an entrance to Xiahe’s famous Labrang monastery.
The London-based International Campaign for Tibet quoted exiled Tibetans who identified the protester as Dorje Rinchen and said he died from burns later Tuesday after he was taken to his village about a mile away.
Dorje was married with two children and had sold bread at the monastery, the group said.
A brief report by the Chinese government’s Xinhua news agency quoted a local official as saying the man was 58 years old and had self-immolated near the monastery.
The agency earlier confirmed another self-immolation near the monastery on Monday by a 63-year-old Tibetan herdsman who was identified by exile groups by the single name Dhondup.
That protest followed a self-immolation on Saturday by a 27-year-old Tibetan man who reportedly charged at police outside Xiahe’s Bora monastery and called for the return of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
About 60 Tibetans have set fire to themselves in China over the past two years.
After Monday’s self-immolation, Stephanie Brigden, the director of London-based Free Tibet, said the protests appeared to be escalating.
“China must recognize that Tibetan demands for freedom cannot be stamped out by brute force and must enter into meaningful dialogue with Tibetan representatives, supported by the international community,” Brigden said.