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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibetan monk reportedly sets self on fire, shot

March 1, 2009

By HENRY SANDERSON ? February 27, 2009

BEIJING (AP) ? A Tibetan Buddhist monk in western China set himself on
fire in an apparent protest against government religious restrictions
and was shot by security forces, international Tibetan advocacy groups
reported Saturday.

The monk, identified as Tapey, was shot Friday afternoon in the Tibetan
town of Aba in Sichuan province, according to Free Tibet, the
International Campaign for Tibet, and phayul.com, a news site affiliated
with the Dalai Lama's India-based government in exile.

They said Tapey was carried to a van and driven away to an undisclosed
location, possibly a hospital. No details were available about his
condition.

Many Tibetans have reportedly heeded calls for an unofficial boycott of
festivities that began Wednesday to mark the start of the Tibetan new
year as a form of protest against last year's crackdown. The Dalai Lama,
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, has said celebrations would be
"inappropriate" under the circumstances.

Adding to the tensions, next month marks the 50th anniversary of a
failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule that led to the Dalai Lama's
flight into exile.

The region has been sealed off to journalists and foreigners and it was
not immediately possible to confirm the incident. Tapey was reportedly a
resident of Aba's Kirti monastery, but a man who answered the phone
there denied an incident had occurred. The man refused to give his name.

Another man who answered the phone at the official Aba Buddhism
Association also said there had been no incidents. Calls to the local
police headquarters rang unanswered on Saturday.

The reported self-immolation comes amid a high-pressure campaign by
authorities to block gatherings of monks, a year after the largest
anti-government protests in decades spread across a huge swathe of
Tibetan inhabited western China.

The Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet said Tapey
had been protesting the cancellation of prayer ceremonies at Kirti by
waving a homemade Tibetan flag and holding a picture of the exiled
Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.

The monks at the monastery were told by local authorities they were not
allowed to observe a traditional prayer festival known as Monlam, held
after the Tibetan new year, the group said citing three sources in
contact with people in the area.

Phayul.com quoted a monk at the affiliated Kirti monastery in
Dharamsala, India, the home of the self-proclaimed Tibet
government-in-exile, as telling Voice of Tibet radio service the monk
poured gasoline onto himself and set himself on fire once he reached the
main road in the town.

"Bystanders said he held high a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and chanted something but couldn't be heard," the monk, identified as
Tsering, was quoted as saying.

Bystanders saw the monk collapse to the ground after they heard three
gunshots, Tsering was quoted as saying. He was reportedly taken in a
vehicle to a nearby hospital, the site said.

A thousand monks had gathered at Kirti monastery earlier Friday to
protest for permission to celebrate the prayer festival, it said.

China claims that Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many
Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for
centuries and that Beijing's tight control is draining them of their
culture and identity.
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