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By Kate Keehan on 2.4.2023

Tibet protester dies after setting himself on fire

A Tibetan monk who set himself alight in New Delhi on Monday has died from his injuries. Jamphel Yeshi had sustained burns to 90% of his body, and had been in a critical condition for two days following the incident before his death on Wednesday. Yeshi, a Tibetan exile, set himself on fire in protest at Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit to India on Thursday outside New Delhi’s parliament building.

Tenzing Norsang of the Tibetan Youth Congress stated on Monday that the self-immolation was not organised as part of the protest, saying however, that the TYC ‘appreciate the courage’ shown by Yeshi, and that the person responsible for his injuries and subsequent death is President Jintao.

Thursday’s visit went ahead as planned, with ‘Free Tibet’ protests continuing outside Hu Jintao’s hotel in southeast Delhi. A group of activists carrying Tibetan flags and placards attempted to force their way into the hotel on Friday morning as Jintao prepared to leave India, but were prevented from doing so by local police.

Yeshi is the second Tibetan man to set fire to himself in 2012 over the issue of Chinese rule in Tibet. Self-immolation is an altogether too common form of protest for young activists of the ‘Free Tibet’ movement. Since Yeshi’s protest, three Tibetan monks between the ages of 20 and 22 have self-immolated, with 20-year-old Lobsang Sherab confirmed dead Thursday afternoon. This brings the total number of Tibetans known to have self-immolated in Tibetan areas of China since February 2009 to 33. Tibetan MP in exile, Youdon Aukatsang, has appealed to Tibetans to, ‘please live to achieve their goal’, saying that this ‘sad chapter’ of the Tibetan struggle should come to an end.

Jamphel Yeshi’s funeral took place on Friday in Dharmsala, with thousands of mourners, many of them young Tibetan exiles like Yeshi, gathering to pay their respects at the Buddhist service. His body was placed in a coffin draped with the Tibetan flag, while the service opened with the Tibetan national anthem. Mourners then stood by Yeshi’s funeral pyre and wept during the chanting of Buddhist prayer and, ‘May Martyr Jamphel Yeshi’s name be immortal’.

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