Tibetan Nun Dies in Self-Immolation

Exiled Tibetan monks in Dharmsala, India, carried portraits of a nun who died after immolating herself in eastern Tibet on Thursday.

BEIJING — A Buddhist nun in southwest Sichuan Province died Thursday after setting herself on fire, becoming the 11th Tibetan to embrace a grisly protest against Chinese rule and at least the sixth to die doing so.

The death of the nun, Qiu Xiang, 35, was reported by Xinhua, the official news agency, and confirmed by exile groups, who gave her Tibetan name as Palden Choetso. She was the second nun in the predominantly Tibetan region to take her own life by self-immolation.

Like two previous cases, the most recent suicide took place in Ganzi Prefecture, known as Kardze in Tibetan, which is the site of several important Buddhist monasteries that have been under especially tight restrictions in recent months. Last week, a Tibetan monk, Dawa Tsering, set himself on fire during a religious ceremony at a monastery there.

Xinhua wrote a short news article about the latest case, saying the nun set fire to herself at a road crossing in Dawu County shortly before 1 p.m. The report said the local authorities were investigating her motives.

Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet said the nun reportedly made a plea for religious freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader, as her robes went up in flames. Ms. Saunders, citing the account of a local Tibetan, said fellow nuns took the injured woman back to their monastery, where she died a short time later. The local Tibetan said the authorities had since locked down the area and sent troops into the nunnery, which is known as Ganden Jangchup Choeling.

According to exile groups, the atmosphere in Kardze has been tense since demonstrations against Chinese policies broke out in the region in June. Such illegal gatherings have continued, including an unusually bold gathering of thousands in July for the birthday of the Dalai Lama.

Exile groups say that scores of monks and nuns have been detained, among them three women who were said to have been given three-year prison terms for their role in a June demonstration.

The ruling Communist Party has sought to portray the self-immolations as a form of terrorism inspired by the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since fleeing Tibet during a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. Beijing consistently accuses the Dalai Lama of agitating for an independent state despite his insistence on greater autonomy for the region’s five million ethnic Tibetans.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Japan last week, the Dalai Lama deplored the rash of self-immolations and suggested that the Chinese government make an honest assessment of what was driving so many Tibetans to such desperation. “It’s their own sort of wrong policy, ruthless policy, illogical policy,” he said.

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