Tibetan protester dies after setting himself on fire



NEW DELHI // A Tibetan exile who set himself on fire on Monday to protest the visit of Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, died yesterday.

Jamphel Yeshi, 27, died after sustaining burns on 90 per cent of his body. He lit himself on fire during a protest in New Delhi. He was part of a crowd of hundreds of Tibetans who were trying to march towards the Indian parliament.

"Martyr Jamphel Yeshi's sacrifice will be written in golden letters in the annals of our freedom struggle," said Dhondup Lhadar, vice president of the Tibetan Youth Congress. "He will live on to inspire and encourage the future generations of Tibetans. The brilliant radiance of his fire will dispel the darkness of China's illegal occupation of Tibet and regenerate the spirit of Tibetan independence."

China blamed the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, who has lived in exile in India for decades, for inciting the self-immolation and has called the protester's act a form of terrorism.

Mr Jintao arrived yesterday afternoon with a 150-member trade delegation for a two-day summit with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The meeting of these nations is popularly known as Brics. The acronym was coined in 2001 by economist Jim O'Neill to capture a shift in global economic growth in emerging markets.

Sporadic protests continued to break out in New Delhi yesterday as the police cordoned off areas of the capital where the Tibetan community lives in an attempt to restrict their movement.

So far, 250 people have been detained, said Youdon Aukatsang. She is a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

"If they think they might protest, if they are perceived to be activists, they are being detained as a 'preventive measure'," said Ms Aukatsang.

An estimated 100,000 Tibetans live in exile in India, mostly in Dharamsala but also across the country and in New Delhi.

The arrests are "a mixed message. We are grateful to India for hosting us for 50 years but they are under obligation that everything runs smoothly," Ms Aukatsang said. "They don't want the Tibetans embarrassing the Indian government. From their side, they do what they have to do. So do we."

The protesters "want to remind Mr Jintao that, no matter what, our spirit is alive, our movement is strong," Ms Aukatsang said.

The crackdown started on Tuesday night with the arrest of Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan writer, poet and activist. Plainclothes policemen escorted Mr Tsundue from the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi while he was on a tea break after a discussion on Tibet and India.

"They took him away forcibly. We shouted but there was not much else we could do, " said Ms Aukatsang, who witnessed the incident.

The first Brics summit was held in 2009. The aim is to explore whether these emerging economies could work together as a political and economic bloc. That goal has often been dismissed as unworkable due to the deep political and economic differences between them.

China and India make for particularly uneasy bedfellows. They share an increasingly militarised border and a trade relationship that heavily favours China.

The Brics countries are hoping that a common economic and political agenda can bridge differences, boost their economies and increase their clout on the international stage.

At the summit this week, they are expected to discuss plans for a development bank, similar to the World Bank, that would allow them to pool resources for infrastructure and offer lending to help stave off financial crises.

They are also expected to launch a joint stock exchange and sign new agreements on extending credit to other members in local currency, reducing their dependence on the dollar.

Energy security, and the situations in Iran and Syria, are also expected to be on the agenda.

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