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JEFF JACOBY

Burning with despair

Tibetans protesting Chinese repression set fire to themselves

NEAR THE Kirti monastery in a Tibetan part of China’s Sichuan province, 21-year-old Lobsang Jamyang publicly set himself on fire last Saturday. It was the fourth time this month that a Tibetan protesting Chinese repression had resorted to self-immolation. When local residents attempted to retrieve his body from the police, Chinese security forces fired into the crowd, reportedly wounding two.

So far little is known about this latest Tibetan to burn himself alive. A few days earlier, however, a 42-year-old “Living Buddha’’ - a prominent Tibetan monk named Sonam Wangyal - swallowed and doused himself with kerosene, then set himself aflame in the western province of Qinghai. Sonam was an admired spiritual leader who had run an orphanage and a home for the elderly, and was regarded as the reincarnation of a high-ranking lama. Radio Free Asia reported that before immolating himself, he prayed and burned incense on a hilltop, and distributed leaflets calling his death a protest “for Tibet and the happiness of Tibetans.’’

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