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Video released by Tibetan rights group allegedly shows Buddhist nun burning herself in protest

Associated Press, November 22, 2011

BEIJING, China -- A Tibetan rights group has released graphic video of what it says is a Buddhist nun engulfed in flames on a city street in one of several apparent self-immolation protests against Chinese rule.

<< Students For A Free Tibet via APTN / Associated Press: This image from video footage released by Students For A Free Tibet via APTN purports to show Buddhist nun Palden Choetso engulfed in flames in her self-immolation protest against Chinese rule on a street in Tawu, Tibetan Ganzi prefecture, in China’s Sichuan Province Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011.

The video, released Monday by Students for a Free Tibet, purports to show Palden Choetso, whose death on Nov. 3 in predominantly Tibetan Ganzi prefecture in Sichuan province had previously been reported.

The video shows a woman in nun’s robes standing on a street corner covered in bright red flames. She collapses to the ground after about 15 seconds.

Additional footage shows about 10,000 mourners gathering at a monastery for a candlelight vigil on Nov. 6 to pay their respects to the 35-year-old nun while about 1,000 monks and nuns hold prayers inside.

The video also shows Chinese security forces in riot gear shadowing monks and nuns taking part in a protest march, and a column of armored paramilitary police patrol vehicles traveling down a country road. The New York-based Students of a Free Tibet said it obtained the video from sources in the region.

China restricts journalists’ access to Tibetan areas of western China and to Tibet itself, and it is nearly impossible to verify statements about conditions there.

At least 11 monks, nuns, and former monks have self-immolated this year in what are seen as acts of desperation in the face of tightening controls over Tibetan life and Buddhist culture.

Most ignited the flames while calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

China claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.

Authorities routinely deny Tibetan claims of repression, although they have confirmed some cases of self-immolations and accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of encouraging such acts. The Dalai Lama and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in India say they oppose all violence.

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