After another space between self-immolations that felt lengthy compared to what became the norm over the last few months, we hear the sad news today of two self-immolations in Lhasa. These are the first in Lhasa, and the exact location- in front of the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism- leaves me worried about what we’ll see over the next few days:
The two were believed to be among a few Tibetan youths who gathered to protest against Chinese rule outside the temple.
“The security forces arrived immediately and put out the fire and all the tourists in the area were cordoned off from the site. Within 15 minutes, the area was cleaned and not a trace of the incident was left at the site,” an eyewitness told RFA.
“The flames were huge and witnesses are presuming that they [the two] were dead in the fire,” one Tibetan source living in exile said, citing contacts in the region.
“Lhasa city is now filled with police and para-military forces and the situation is very tense,” the source said.
Unconfirmed reports said Tibetans gathered to protest after the burnings and that there were more arrests.
The self-immolations came as Tibetans flock to Lhasa to mark the auspicious Buddhist month of Saka Dawa commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.
The Chinese authorities had issued directives barring government employees and retirees and students from participating in the religious activities for the whole month, sources in Lhasa said.
“Today is the sixth day of the auspicious Tibetan Buddhist month of Saka Dawa and several hundred Tibetans came out in the city and prayed and circumambulated the temple and Potala Palace,” the eyewitness to Sunday’s self-immolations said.