Chinese Police Allegedly Gun Down Tibetan Monk On Fire

03/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Tibetan monk, Tabey, was gunned down by Chinese police after he set himself on fire today in the Ngaba region of Tibet, reports Phayul. Tabey apparently set himself ablaze to protest the government's restrictions a Tibetan New Year's prayer festival, it reports.

"I was told the monk had gasoline spilled onto his body, and as soon as he reached the main road of the town he set himself on fire. Bystanders said he held high a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and chanted something but couldn't be heard," Tsering said, adding that he might be calling for the return to Tibet of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and independence for Tibet.

According to Tsering, bystanders saw him collapse on the ground after they heard three gunshots. The monk was reportedly taken in a vehicle to a nearby hospital, said Tsering, but it is not known if he is alive or dead at the time of this report going online.

Spokesman for the Free Tibet campaign Matt Whitticase spoke about the incident, Reuters reports:

The monk was surrounded by armed police, three gun shots were heard and he was carried away in a van after falling to the ground, Whitticase said, citing unidentified sources. It was not known whether the monk was dead or alive, he added.

The Guardian reports that this follows tension in China over the Tibetan New Year.

Free Tibet said up to 800 monks had reportedly gone to Tabe's home village of Trinkin to say prayers, believing him to be dead.

The group said Tabe's protest followed an attempt by almost 1,000 monks at Kirte to use a prayer hall to observe the Monlam festival - part of Tibetan new year - despite being told not to do so. They were told to return to their rooms.

The authorities have been angered by some Tibetans deciding to boycott new year celebrations other than religious rituals as a mark of protest against Chinese rule.