Lhakpa Tsering: Man on Fire

In 2010, Strangers producer, Lea Thau, went to India to escape from a broken heart and to help start a theater project for the Tibetan community in the foothills of the Himalayas in a small town called Dharamsala, which is where the Dalai Lama lives. She went there looking for action and escape, and discovered that a haunting story of much more radical action and escape was sitting right next to her at the tiny non-profit theater project she had come to help launch: her colleague Lhakpa Tsering had set himself on fire to protest China's occupation of Tibet during an official visit to India by Chinese president Hu Jintao. He'd lived to tell the tale, but how was it that this young, fun-loving, part-time comedian had come to commit such a radical act at the risk of sacrificing his own life? The story that unfolded, as Lea sat down with Lhakpa, involves a dramatic escape from Tibet, at nine years old, when young Lhakpa decided to run away from an abusive stepfather -- to a foreign country, where he didn't speak the language, on foot, with no money or passport, by himself. (This story originally aired on KCRW's UnFictional.)

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Lhakpa as a young activist for Tibetan independence

Lhakpa on fire as the police works to extinguish the flames

Lhakpa outside his office in 2010 when Lea met him

The town of Dharamsala


Three elderly Tibetan refugees



Lea Thau, mother and reporter in India


Lea Thau