Tibetan Nun Dies in China
China has seen a rise in the self-immolation of Buddhist nuns and monks in recent years as a new form of gruseome protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. (Photo: Reuters)

The horrifying video of what is believed to be a Buddhist nun engulfed in flames on a city street was smuggled out of the country and given to Students for a Free Tibet, which has released it to the media and posted it on YouTube.

The video is believed to be footage of Palden Choetso, 35, who turned to self-immolation on November 3 in a protest against Chinese rule. It shows a woman in nun's robes standing on a street corner covered in bright red flames. She collapses to the ground after15 seconds.

Qiu Xiang, who gave her Tibetan name as Palden Choetso, was the second nun in the predominantly Tibetan region to commit suicide by self-immolation. This is the latest in a wave of self-immolations, 11 among nuns, monks and former monks.

Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet said the nun reportedly made a plea for religious freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan exiled spiritual leader, as her robes went up in flames. She said fellow nuns took the injured woman back to their monastery, where she died of her injuries a short time later.

The video also shows Chinese security forces in riot gear shadowing monks and nuns taking part in a protest march, and a column of armoured paramilitary police patrol vehicles traveling down a country road.

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama expressed his concerns about this extreme form of protest. In an interview with the BBC , he said he does not encourage Tibetans to set themselves on fire. "There is courage -- very strong courage. But how much effect? Courage alone is no substitute. You must utilize your wisdom, " the 76 year old Buddhist leader told the BBC.

The Dalai Lama has blamed hard-line Chinese policies, which he describes as "cultural genocide," for a wave of self-immolations by Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns.

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.