TOULOUSE, France, 16 November 2012
A British monk died in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in France after he poured petrol over his clothes and set himself alight, police said Friday.
The 38-year-old Briton, whom police did not name, had been living at Nalanda monastery near the southwestern village of Labastide-Saint-Georges for the past five years.
He carried out the act on Thursday in the garden of the monastery, which is home to 25 monks and 20 lay people and which on its website describes itself as “a unique monastery for Western monks in the Tibetan Geluk tradition”.
Police were seeking to establish whether the victim had been depressive or if he might have committed suicide in an act of solidarity with Tibetans in China.
More than 50 people have set themselves on fire in China’s Tibetan-inhabited regions since March 2011 in protest at what they say is religious and cultural repression by the Chinese authorities.
Tibetans have long chafed under China’s rule over the vast Tibetan plateau, accusing Beijing of curbing religious freedoms and eroding their culture and language.
The tensions have intensified over the past year, but Beijing insists that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and have benefited from improved living standards brought on by China’s economic expansion.