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Tibetan who set self ablaze in Delhi 'has died'

A Tibetan man screams as he runs engulfed in flames after self-immolating at a protest in New Delhi, India, ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the country Monday, March 26, 2012. - AP Photo

NEW DELHI: A Tibetan exile who set himself alight two days ago in New Delhi in a protest against a visit to the city by Chinese President Hu Jintao died on Wednesday, doctors said.

Jamphel Yeshi, 27, was captured in dramatic photographs when he doused his clothes in fuel, lit himself and ran screaming down a road with his body covered in flames.

He collapsed to the ground as other Tibetans, who had gathered to protest against alleged repression by the Chinese government in their homeland, tried to beat out the flames.

“His heart stopped working, everything stopped working. He had 98 percent burns,” L.K. Makhija, the head of the burns department at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in the Indian capital, told AFP.

“Normally people with 98 percent burns do not survive. The body has been sent for a post-mortem.” Thousands of Tibetan exiles live in Delhi and many young activists have vowed to use President Hu's arrival in the city later on Wednesday to focus global attention on China's treatment of Tibetans.

Since the start of 2011, at least 29 Tibetans, many of them Buddhist monks and nuns, are reported to have set themselves on fire in Tibetan-inhabited areas of China to protest against Chinese rule.

President Hu was due to land in Delhi at 2:00 pm (0830 GMT) to attend Thursday's summit of the BRICS group of developing nations, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Yeshi fled from China in 2006 and was living in the Tibetan exiles' colony of Majnu ka Tila in Delhi, his friends said.

They said that he was an unemployed man who had grown increasingly frustrated at the fate of Tibetans in China, but that he had told no one of his planned self-immolation.

Before Yeshi's death, Tenzing Choegyal, a Tibetan Youth Congress activist, said Yeshi could never forget “torture” he suffered at the hands of Chinese authorities in Tibet.

“He was arrested twice by Chinese cops as he tried to escape. He said he was tortured badly before he finally managed to escape to India,” said Choegyal, 31.

Many Tibetans in China complain of religious repression as well as a gradual erosion of their culture, which they blame on a growing influx of Han Chinese - the country's dominant ethnic group - in areas where they live.

But China rejects the accusations and accuses Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India, of inciting self-immolations in a bid to split Tibet from the rest of the nation.

Since Yeshi's protest on Monday, Tibetans in New Delhi have complained that police have been targeting them in a heavy-handed crackdown to prevent any protests during Hu's visit.

Police denied detaining Tibetans at random but said that anti-China protests would not be allowed.

“We are not putting Tibetans under house arrest (but) they have been instructed not to rally anywhere inside New Delhi,” police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told AFP.

“There is heavy deployment in places where Tibetans stay,” he added.


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