Jampa Yeshi, 27, set himself alight near a group of protesters in the central district of Connaught Place in the capital.
Jampa Yeshi, 27, set himself alight near a group of protesters in the central district of Connaught Place in New Delhi (Reuters)

The Tibetan exile who set himself on fire in New Delhi in protest on the eve of Tibet's President Hu Jintao's visit to India has died.

Jampa Yeshi, 27, set himself alight in the central district of Connaught Place in protest against Chinese policies on Tibet.

He doused himself with highly flammable liquid and was engulfed in flames as he ran past the stage where protesters were criticising China. Other Tibetans tried to extinguish the flames.

Yeshi, who reportedly escaped from Tibet in 2006 and lived in India for the last two years, was taken to hospital for treatment in New Delhi after suffering burns on 85 percent of his body.

"Martyr Yeshi's sacrifice will be written in golden letters in the annals of our freedom struggle," said Dhondup Lhadar, an activist with the Tibetan Youth Congress. "He will live on to inspire and encourage future generations of Tibetans."

It was the first case of self-immolation reported from India. Over the past year, 30 Tibetans, most in Siichuan province, southwest China, have set themselves on fire to protest against Chinese rule in Tibet, according to Tibetan rights groups. At least 20 have died.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet amid a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, has blamed China's "ruthless policy" of annexation for the self-immolations. Chinese officials blame the Dalai Lama, in turn, for fomenting trouble.

More than 600 demonstrators rallied across New Delhi near the Indian parliament to protest against Hu's visit. Some carried posters saying "Tibet is burning" or "Tibet is not part of China".