A Tibetan traditional artist self-immolates and dies, sparking huge protests against Chinese rule.
Thousands of Tibetans staged protests against Chinese rule after another self-immolation death Sunday in a Tibetan-populated area in Qinghai province, triggering a massive security buildup, according to sources.
Traditional artist Dorjee Lhundup, 25, shouted slogans against Chinese rule and called for the return of Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama before burning himself to death in Rongwo township, the capital of Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in the Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the sources said.
The dawn self-immolation attracted a large crowd of monks and residents to the township, with many of them placing the “khata,” the traditional Tibetan scarf, on his charred remains as a mark of respect for the father of two, one source said.
Later, several thousand Tibetans converged at a hill site near the key Rongwo monastery as Dorjee Lhundup’s body was taken there for prayers and immediate cremation to prevent the Chinese authorities from interfering with funeral rites, the source said.
“People shouted ‘Ki! Ki!,’ a Tibetan battle cry, and others raised slogans at the Dhongya-la cremation site where thousands of people gathered to mourn and pay their respect for the deceased and stand in solidarity with the family of Dorjee Lhundup,” the source said.
His family members pleaded with the crowd to end the protest for fear over their safety, saying Dorjee Lhundup set fire to himself to “protect Tibet’s interest” and underscore demands for the return of the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in India since 1958 following a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.
“Soon after the self immolation incident, security forces poured into the town and patrolled the streets and the situation was tense,” according to the source.
There were no arrests but, according to eyewitnesses cited by sources, security officials warned the Tibetans against spreading the news of the self-immolation, the 63rd since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.
The Dhongya-lay site was where two other Tibetan self-immolators in Rongwo were also cremated earlier this year. Those self-immolations in March had sparked the largest protests in Tibet since deadly riots in the region in 2008.
“Tibetans in the town say that they are frightened to go out, reporting large numbers of security forces on the streets and restrictions on movements in the town. Internet and mobile communications are being interrupted to prevent the spread of information,” London-based advocacy group Free Tibet said in a statement.
Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said more than half of the Tibetans who torched themselves have only known a Tibet under Chinese occupation “and still they reject Chinese rule.”
“China’s policies in Tibet have failed. Protests in Tibet are escalating ahead of the change of leadership,” she said as Beijing prepares for a once-in-a decade transition to be endorsed at the18th ruling Chinese Communist Party Congress beginning on Thursday.
“Events inside Tibet expose how the ‘One China’ policy has failed. The next generation of Communist Party leaders must seize the opportunity to take a different approach from one which tries to impose stability by force,” Brigden said.
Rebgong was the scene of constant student protests in October 2010 against a proposed change in the language of instruction in schools from Tibetan to Chinese.
Rare UN call
Sunday’s self-immolation came three days after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on China to address the grievances of Tibetans and sought an end to the self-immolation protests.
“I recognize Tibetans’ intense sense of frustration and despair which has led them to resort to such extreme means, but there are other ways to make those feelings clear,” she said.
In her statement, believed to be among the most forceful by a top U.N. official in directly addressing the situation in Tibet, Pillay pointed to “reports of detentions and disappearances, of excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and curbs on the cultural rights of Tibetans.”
“I call on [China’s] government to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, and to release all individuals detained for merely exercising these universal rights,” she said.
Cases cited by Pillay include the beating and imprisonment of a 17-year-old Tibetan girl who distributed flyers calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, along with other instances of Tibetans jailed for writing essays, making films, or sending information about events in Tibet to contacts outside the region.
Media access to Tibetan areas should be lifted, Pillay said, and “independent and impartial” monitors allowed to visit and report on the conditions they observe.
In addition, Pillay called on China to suspend the forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads and to review policies encouraging large-scale Han Chinese migration into ethnic Tibetan areas.
Thousands attend Tibetan self-immolator Dorjee Lhundup’s funeral
DHARAMSHALA, November 4: In details emerging out of Tibet, the Tibetan man who passed away in his self-immolation protest earlier today has been identified as Dorjee Lhundup.
Hours after his fiery protest, he was given a grand funeral, attended by thousands of Tibetans.
Dorjee Lhundup, 25, was the father of a four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. He set himself ablaze at around10:30 am (local time) at one of the busiest crossroads in Rongwo town, Rebkong in eastern Tibet.
According to eyewitnesses, Dorjee Lhundup called for freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile, while engulfed in flames.
He passed away at the site of his protest.
Upon hearing the news of the self-immolation, local Tibetans gathered at the protest site and carried the deceased’s body to the Rongwo Monastery.
The crowd swelled into thousands by afternoon, when Dorjee Lhundup was laid to rest at Dhongya-lay cremation site behind the Monastery.
Latest reports indicate that Chinese security forces have swamped the streets in Rongwo, placing restrictions on the movement of Tibetans. Interruptions in internet and mobile communications have also been reported in order to prevent the spread of information on the self-immolation.
In the Tibetan exile headquarters of Dharamshala, the regional chapters of the Tibetan Youth Congress and Tibetan Women’s Association organised a candle light vigil in the evening today in honour of Dorjee Lhundup.
Tibetans and supporters marched to the Martyr’s Pillar near the Tsug-la Khang, the main temple and said prayers for Tibetans who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibet.
Yesterday, the exile Tibetan administration made an open appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council to convene a Special Session on Tibet in light of the deteriorating human rights situation inside Tibet.
The Central Tibetan Administration appealed to the 47-member states of the UNHRC to convene a special session on Tibet in view of the “desperate and unprecedented spate of self-immolations by Tibetans due to China’s repressive policies and the continued intransigence of the Chinese leadership to the relentless efforts of UNHRC.”
63 known Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in Tibet, protesting China’s continued occupation and demanding freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile. Last month alone witnessed ten self-immolation protests.