Tibetan Man Sets Himself Ablaze in First Burning Protest This Year

2014-02-06
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Security forces patrol in Malho prefecture, Feb. 6, 2014.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A Tibetan living in northwestern China’s Qinghai province has set himself on fire in protest against Beijing’s rule in the first self-immolation protest by Tibetans this year, triggering a security crackdown, local sources said Thursday.

Phagmo Samdrub, 29, set himself ablaze “for the cause of Tibet” at around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday near the Panchen Day School in Dokarmo township in Tsekhog (in Chinese, Zeku) county in the Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a local resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“On Feb. 5, a Tibetan called Phagmo Samdrub self-immolated for the cause of Tibet,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding that Samdrub had been taken away by Chinese authorities.

By the early hours of Thursday, Chinese forces had tightened security “very conspicuously”  in Tsekhog and nearby Rebgong (Tongren) county, the scene of several earlier self-immolation protests, the source said.

“Communication channels have been restricted in areas around Tsekhog, and it is said that [Samdrub] has been taken to government headquarters in Tsekhog county.”

“No further details are available,” he added.
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Calling the Tsekhog county police department for comment, an RFA reporter was told that he had reached “the hospital” by mistake before the phone was hung up.

Repeated calls to the same number were not answered Thursday.

Burnings continue

Samdrub’s protest brings to 126 the number of Tibetan self-immolations challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan areas and follows the Dec. 19 burning of a respected Tibetan monk in China’s Gansu province.

Tsultrim Gyatso, 43, self-immolated at a road junction in Sangchu (Xiahe) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture after penning a one-page suicide note in which he called for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check self-immolation protests, arresting and jailing Tibetans whom they accuse of being linked to the burnings. Some have been jailed for up to 15 years.

Last month, three Tibetan men were ordered jailed for up to two years on charges of involvement in self-immolation protests against Chinese rule in Gansu province, sources in the region said.

The three —Dorje Rabten, Kalsang Jinpa, and Dorje Tashi—were sentenced on Jan. 2 by the Tsoe (in Chinese, Hezuo) city court in Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, according to a source in Tibet.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.