Tibetans’ self-immolation continues

Posted on November 21, 2012


The recent surge in self-immolations by Tibetans protesting ’s policies has continued unabated. At least 76 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009. Most recently, 25-year-old Wangchen Norbu set himself on fire in Qinghai on Monday. From Voice of America:

Sources in the region say that Norbu set himself ablaze near Kangtsa Gaden Choephelling Monastery and shouted slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to , release of the Panchen Lama and freedom for .

Around 10:30 pm local time, the crowds are reported to have shouted slogans calling for the return of the exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to Tibet. As of receiving the report, the gathering of monks and local people are reported to be reciting long life prayers for the Dalai Lama.

The situation in the area is tense with paramilitary forces surrounding the area.

Then today, another man was reported to have self-immolated in Xiahe, Gansu, though few details are available. From AFP:

The  News Agency says herder Tsering Dongdri set himself on fire Tuesday in a remote area of Xiahe county in a Tibetan part of the western province of .

The Hindu also reports on two cases over the past weekend in Rebkong (Tongren), which has become a locus for self-immolation  in recent weeks. The Hindu describes the town center:

The Dolma Square, named after a golden statue of Jetsun Dolma, a Bodhisattva and female deity known for her compassion, has been a site of several protests by Rongwo monks and local Tibetans since March, when two Tibetans set themselves on fire in the town. The square sits at the entrance of the Rongwo monastery, which is a site of significance for Tibetans and particularly for the Yellow Hat sect, for whom the Dalai Lama is the most important figure.

During a visit to  in April, The Hindu found tight security outside Dolma Square, where a black SWAT van was permanently stationed. Monks at Rongwo Monastery told The Hindu in interviews that tensions had been high in the monastery after two self-immolation protests at Dolma Square in March, where a monk and a farmer, in separate incidents, set themselves on fire.

Rebkong is a quiet town, where small Tibetan shops displaying artwork and handicrafts line narrow, muddy streets that run outside the monastery’s walls. Further down the road from the monastery, monks and school-students walk amidst groups of paramilitary security forces.

In recent weeks, the town has emerged at the centre of spreading self-immolation protests, with Tibetan monks in , citing their sources in Rongwo, recording at least eight protests since November 7, the day before the Communist Party of China began its leadership congress.

LinkTV interviewed Columbia University Tibet scholar Robert Barnett about the  and the Chinese government’s response:

Advocacy groups, including International Campaign for Tibet, have reported stringent restrictions on the families of those who have died from self-immolation. According to ICT:

Officials in the Rebkong area have warned people that they cannot go to the homes of those who self-immolated and express their condolences. They also said that if monks go to pray for self-immolators, monasteries will be closed down, and that the families of self-immolators will be punished.

For its part, Xinhua News reported that monks in Tibetan regions are being trained as fire fighters, without mentioning the self-immolations:

As a part of the Aba prefectural government’s efforts to better protect more than 250 monasteries in the areas against fire risks, four monasteries: Dagcha, Tisannyi, Mewa, and Changlie, were chosen to participate in a trial program to create their own firefighting teams.

Young and strong candidates are chosen to take part in regular training sessions that teach them how to detect fire risks, fight fires and protect themselves. Courses held by the Aba prefectural fire brigade also cover laws and regulations pertaining to firecontrol.

In addition to their usual routine of studying scriptures and meditating, the monks engage in firefighting training sessions once a week. Large rooms outside temple prayer halls are used as fire control offices.

Burning Protest at Mine

A Tibetan father of two dies after setting himself ablaze to protest China’s rule.

Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.
An undated photo of Tsering Dondrub.

Chinese authorities threw a security blanket over a Tibetan town in Gansu province and told residents to fight “splittism” after a Tibetan man burned himself to death Tuesday at the entrance to a Chinese mining site in protest against Beijing’s rule.

Tsering Dondrub, a 34-year-old father of two, self-immolated outside a mine in Amchok town in Gansu’s Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county at about 8:30 a.m., local and exile Tibetan sources said.

“Now, the Amchok area is full of Chinese police, and Tibetans are finding it difficult to attend the prayer service and funeral,” a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“However, [Dondrub’s] remains are in the hands of the Tibetans,” the source said.

“There are several Chinese police vehicles in the area,” he said, adding that one vehicle displayed a large banner written in red ink in Tibetan and Chinese carrying the words “Fight Splittism.”

China often denounces exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama as a “splittist” seeking an independent Tibet, accusations he has repeatedly denied.

Tibetans self-immolation protesters have frequently called for the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, to return to Tibet, from which he fled after a failed national revolt against Chinese occupation in 1959.

‘Gentle, devoted’

Separately, Tibetan sources in exile with contacts in the region said Tsering Dondrub was known for his “gentle character” and devotion to the Tibetan cause.

Dondrub’s mother was identified as Drukmo Tso and his father as Lubum Gyal. He leaves his wife, Tamdin Tso, and two children, one source said.

“Right now, the monks of Amchok monastery are conducting prayers for the deceased, and a large number of Tibetans have gathered to express their solidarity and respect for his sacrifice,” another source said.

Tsering Dondrub is the 78th Tibetan to have self-immolated to protest Chinese rule since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009, and the fourth in as many days.

Self-immolations by Tibetans living in areas governed by China have intensified in recent weeks, and especially during the 18th Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which announced a once-in-a-decade national leadership transition last week.


Third Burning in Three Days

Another Tibetan sets himself on fire as the number of those who die protesting Chinese rule continues to climb.

Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.
An undated photo of the latest Tibetan self-immolator, Wangchen Norbu.

A Tibetan man burned himself to death on Monday in China’s Qinghai province about a week after being overcome with emotion seeing Tibetan elders mourn the growing number of self-immolation deaths in protest against Chinese rule, according to sources.

It was the third self-immolation death in the last three days and the 77th Tibetan burning since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.

Wangchen Norbu, 25, set himself ablaze at around 8:00 p.m. local time near the Kangtsa Ganden Choeling monastery in Yadzi (in Chinese, Xunhua Salar) county in the Tsoshar (Haidong) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan resident of the area told RFA.

“As he burned, he called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, for the release of the Panchen Lama, and for freedom for Tibetans,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Norbu is survived by his father, Tenzin, and mother, Khandro Tso, the source said.

Prayers and grief

A second local source confirmed the burning, saying that Norbu had been present at a Nov. 8 prayer gathering at the monastery for other Tibetan self-immolations who have lost their lives in anti-China protests.

“He became emotional when he saw many elderly Tibetan mourners faint from grief,” he said.

In a highly charged scene at about 10:30 p.m., Norbu’s remains were cremated by a large gathering of monks and other Tibetans amid prayers and loud calls for the long life of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the source said.

“Several policemen also arrived at the scene,” he added.

Norbu’s protest followed by two days the burning deaths of two other Tibetans, a man and a woman, in Qinghai’s restive Rebgong county.

In the first incident, mother of two Chakmo Kyi set fire to herself and died at around 4:00 p.m. on Saturday at the doorstep of a tax office in Rongwo town, triggering a clash over her charred body by local Tibetans and Chinese security forces.

Sangdag Tsering, 24, burned himself three hours later in front of local government offices in Rebgong’s Dokar Mo town, hours after local authorities issued an order forbidding area residents to pay respect to self-immolators or grieve with their relatives.

Protests intensifying

Self-immolations by Tibetans have intensified in recent weeks, and especially during the 18th Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which endorsed a once-in-a-decade national leadership transition on Thursday.

“The extent of [these] protests, which are now happening on a daily basis, is clear evidence of Tibetans’ absolute rejection of Chinese rule,” Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group, said in a statement at the weekend .

“How many more protests will China try to crush before the Communist Party recognizes Tibet belongs to Tibetans?” Brigden asked.

“How many more Tibetans will the world watch die in this way before clear, strong steps are taken to resolve this crisis?”


Tibet continues to burn: Man sets self on fire

DHARAMSHALA, November 18: In more alarming reports coming out of Tibet, another Tibetan passed away in his self-immolation protest yesterday evening in an apparent protest against China’s rule.

Sangdag Tsering, 24, set himself on fire in front of a local Chinese government office in Dokar Mo town in the Rebkong region of eastern Tibet at around 7 pm (local time). Tsering, father of a three-year-old son, passed away at the site of his protest.

His self-immolation came just hours after a Tibetan woman, Chagmo Kyi passed away after setting herself on fire outside a Chinese office in Rongwo town.

Sources tell Phayul that earlier in the day, Chinese authorities summoned a large meeting of local Tibetans and gave out clear orders, barring them from visiting families of self-immolators to pay their respect and condolences.

Further orders warned that monasteries, which didn’t follow the decree, would be shut down.

“Martyr Sangdag Tsering set himself on fire later in the evening at the very place where the meeting was called,” Dorjee Wangchuk, an exile Tibetan said citing sources in the region.

Chinese security personnel arrived at the scene and tried to douse the flames but Sangdag Tsering succumbed to his injuries.

“Monks from two nearby monasteries and thousands of local Tibetans gathered at the protest site and carried his body to the Gonshul Sangag Mindrol Dhargeyling for his cremation,” Wangchuk said.

The same source added that Sangdag Tsering had off late repeatedly expressed his frustration over the lack of freedom in Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s absence, and the continuing wave of self-immolations in Tibet.

About a week back, he had written a short poem espousing loyalty to Tibet and emailed it to a friend.

The last two lines of the poem written in Tibetan reads: “The brave men of the snow mountains, Don’t forget your loyalty to Tibet.”

Sangdag Tsering is survived by his parents, his wife Phagmo Tso, 24, and their son.

The alarming escalation in self-immolation protests has already witnessed 14 Tibetans set themselves on fire in this month alone, with nine of them occurring in the Rebkong region. A total of 76 Tibetans inside Tibet have now self-immolated since 2009, demanding freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.

Speaking to a special gathering of Tibet supporters in Dharamshala, the Dalai Lama yesterday said that the situation in Tibet is “serious.”

“Whether Chinese government agrees or not, there are problems and these problems are neither good for Tibetans or for the people of China. So, therefore we have to find a solution based on mutual understanding and mutual respect,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said.

He further cautioned: “The use force will never get satisfactory results.”


British Monk Self-Immolates

Police investigate after a Western Buddhist monk burns himself to death at a monastery in France.

Photo courtesy of Nalanda Monastery
Nalanda Monastery in Labastide-Saint-George, France, shown in an undated photo.

A British monk set himself on fire and died at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in France on Thursday amid suspicion by police that he may have been making a “political gesture” against China’s occupation of Tibet, according to sources and reports.

The 38-year-old monk, a native Briton but known by the Tibetan name Donden, doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze at Nalanda monastery in southwest France, a U.S.-based Tibetan monk told RFA’s Tibetan service on Thursday, citing sources at the monastery and speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nalanda, located near the village of Labastide-Saint-George, is a “unique” Western monastery in the Tibetan Buddhist Gelukpa tradition, according to the monastery’s web site.

Reached by phone on Friday, a monastery spokesman declined to comment.

“An inquiry has been launched by the local French authorities, so we cannot comment on anything until the inquiry is completed,” he told RFA.

Exile Tibetan media quoted officials at the monastery, which is home to 25 monks and 20 lay people, as saying that Donden had left no note or statement explaining his act.

Motive unclear
Police were seeking to establish whether the victim had been depressed or if he might have committed suicide in an act of solidarity with Tibetan protesters in China, Agence France-Presse reported.

A French police officer told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper that the monk may have been making a “political gesture’ questioning Chinese rule in Tibet.

“The man appears to have poured petrol over his head and clothes and set himself on fire,” Gendarmerie colonel Pierre Bouquin told the newspaper.

“He was discovered a few minutes later by other monks in a garden at the monastery, Bouquin said.

“We believe he may have been making a political gesture related to Tibet, but an investigation will be carried out to establish the full facts.”

Firefighters and police were called to the scene but were unable to save the monk’s life, according to the report.

‘Urgent, grave’ situation

In Tibetan regions of China, 74 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in a challenge to Chinese rule since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.

On Thursday, two young Tibetans burned themselves to death in restive Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in Qinghai province, where authorities have cut communications to prevent news of self-immolations from reaching outside areas.

The rising number of self-immolations has triggered concerns at the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan exile government in Dharamsala, India, which has urged the United States to push China’s new leaders to restore the rights of Tibetans.

On Friday, more than 200 members of Tibet Support Groups from across the world began a three-day meeting to strengthen efforts to deal with the “urgent and grave” situation in Tibet, the CTA said on its website.

Lobsang Sangay, the CTA head, said the meeting will send a “strong message” of the international community’s solidarity with Tibetans inside Tibet, calling the talks “historic and extremely important.”

“It will send a clear message to Beijing that Tibetan supporters will make sure that the Tibet issue remain alive till freedom is restored in Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama returns to Tibet,” said Sangay, the political successor to exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who lives in Dharamsala.

According to the CTA website, Sangay said, “The meeting also sends a message that Tibetans in Tibet are suffering torture on a daily basis and denied basic human rights.”

“But they are sacrificing their lives in the belief that Tibetans in exile and supporters will stand up for them to realize their aspirations for freedom and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet.”