Washington — In 2009, a Buddhist monk doused himself in petrol on the main street of Ngaba, a town in the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau. Calling out for the return of the Dalai Lama from exile in India, he set himself on fire.

For much of the previous year, demonstrations had been breaking out across Tibetan areas. Still, such an extreme act of protest was genuinely shocking, a rebuke to the claim that Tibetans are happy under Chinese rule.

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