China sentences man to 13 years, says he incited Tibetan monk to set himself on fire


McClatchy Newspapers

A Chinese court on Friday sentenced a man to 13 years in prison for inciting an ethnic Tibetan monk to set himself on fire, the latest punishment meted out in a crackdown as Chinese authorities try to stop a string of self-immolation protests that has reached almost 100 incidents.

The monk in China’s western Qinghai Province did not actually carry out the self-immolation in November, according to the state Xinhua news wire. But the court found the man, a 27-year-old ethnic Tibetan named Phagpa, guilty of “intentional homicide” for trying to get the monk to do so. Phagpa – many Tibetans have only one name – was also judged guilty of “inciting secession” for “efforts to spread ideas related to ‘Tibetan independence.’”

The same court on Friday also sentenced a man identified as a 60-year-old Tibetan herdsman named Gyadehor to four years in prison for inciting secession. Gyadehor had “spread opinions” about Tibetan independence when he brought cash and goods to console families of those who had self-immolated, Xinhua said.

The court found that his actions “constituted the crime of inciting a split of the state,” according to Xinhua.

Chinese authorities have failed so far to halt the fiery protests, which Beijing claims are the result of a conspiracy hatched by the “Dalai Lama clique,” a reference to the Tibetan spiritual leader who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959. Ethnic Tibetans in areas where the self-immolations have occurred, however, blame an oppressive atmosphere that they said has been created by a government campaign against their language, culture and religion.

The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group that tracks the incidents, puts the tally of self-immolations at 98 since March 2011, and 99 since one in February 2009. More than 80 are said to have died.

The self-immolations began in a Tibetan enclave of China’s western Sichuan province and have spread to three adjoining areas: Tibet itself, which is tightly controlled by Beijing and known formally as the Tibet Autonomous Region, and the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai.

While some observers wondered whether the new head of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, might bring a softer approach to the issue after taking power last year, state media have reported a series of moves that seem designed to deter further immolations by getting tough on those left behind.

On Jan. 31, Xinhua reported that six ethnic Tibetans in Gansu province had been sentenced to between three and 12 years in prison after a self-immolation there and an ensuing confrontation between local residents and police. On the same day, a court in Sichuan sentenced one man to death with a two-year-reprieve and his nephew to 10 years for “inciting eight people to self-immolate, three of whom died.”

On Thursday, Xinhua announced that authorities in Qinghai had since November detained 70 “criminal suspects” and formally arrested 12 of them. Among the 70 was a man named Phagpa, a man whose same name and similar alleged actions make clear that he was the person who was sentenced on Friday.

Xinhua said that Phagpa traveled illegally in 2005 from China to India, where he received training at “an institute specially created for the ‘Tibetan independence’ forces of the Dalai Lama clique.”

After returning to China, Xinhua said, Phagpa taught English at an orphanage and “delivered agitative speeches at the funerals of self-immolators.” He also was accused of inciting more than 50 primary school students and local herders to gather in front of a government building and shout pro-Tibetan independence slogans.

In November, the monk who Phagpa had allegedly convinced to self-immolate checked into a hotel, bringing gasoline with him.

The state-controlled China Daily newspaper reported on Friday that the monk, identified as a man named Drolma Je, was stopped from lighting himself on fire by a relative.

An earlier Xinhua report said that the monk is also in custody and facing charges.

Email:; Twitter: @tomlasseter

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Bahamas imposes new immigration restrictions

    The Bahamas' government announced a measure Wednesday aimed at making it harder for migrants to work in the island chain and said it was considering additional restrictions as part of a plan that appeared mostly aimed at the large numbers of Haitians who have settled in the country in recent years.

 Scottish newspaper headlines Wednesday not the drama looming for Thursday's independence election. ( Claudia Himmelreich/McClatchy)

    Whichever side wins Scotland independence vote, UK faces change

    Seven hundred years ago, Robert the Bruce reclaimed Scottish independence here with the help of a two-handed sword. Thursday, Scotland’s current first minister, Alex Salmond, hopes to repeat that success with the help of 16-year-old voters.

Senator Ivan Cepeda, from the Alternative Democratic Pole, gestures during a congressional debate on alleged ties between Colombia's former President Alvaro Uribe and paramilitary groups in Bogota, Colombia, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Cepeda, a fierce opponent of Uribe, proposed the debate.

    Colombia's ex-President Uribe grilled by lawmakers

    Former President Alvaro Uribe was grilled by lawmakers Wednesday over allegations of ties to drug traffickers and right-wing paramilitaries, accusations that have dogged him over decades in Colombia's politics.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category