NEW DELHI – A Tibetan exile who set himself on fire in India to protest a visit by China’s president died Wednesday, while hundreds of other activists were being detained.
Jamphel Yeshi, 27, set himself alight Monday at a demonstration in New Delhi. He ran screaming past other protesters and the media before falling to the ground, his clothing partly disintegrated and nearly his entire body covered in burns.
“Martyr Jamphel Yeshi’s sacrifice will be written in golden letters in the annals of our freedom struggle,” said Dhondup Lhadar, an activist with the Tibetan Youth Congress. “He will live on to inspire and encourage the future generations of Tibetans.”
About 30 people have set themselves on fire over the past year in ethnic Tibetan areas of China in protest against Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in Tibet. Activists say China’s crackdown is so oppressive in those areas, Tibetans have no other way to voice their protests.
On Tuesday, a U.S. Senate panel passed a nonbinding resolution mourning the deaths and calling on China to end what it describes as repressive policies targeting Tibetans.
Beijing has blamed the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India for decades, for inciting the self-immolations and has called the protesters’ actions a form of terrorism.
President Hu Jintao is in New Delhi for the BRICS summit that includes India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa on Thursday.
Wednesday also marked the day China calls Serfs Emancipation Day, when in 1958 government troops took control of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama fled into exile.
Indian police and soldiers have orders to restrict the movement of New Delhi’s Tibetan population while Hu is in town, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.
Hundreds of Tibetan activists have been rounded up under laws that allow “preventative detention.”
The group said a grand funeral “deserving of a martyr” is planned for Yeshi in the Tibetan exiled community’s headquarters of Dharmsala, in northern India.