Updated at 12:55 p.m. EST on 2012-02-22
Chinese security forces on Thursday shot and killed a Tibetan monk and his brother who had been involved in protests against Chinese rule, as another Tibetan self-immolated to protest Tibetans' plight, sources said.
The shooting in Draggo (in Chinese, Luhuo) county in southwest Sichuan province signaled a hardening crackdown by Chinese authorities on dissent by Tibetans, 22 of whom have self-immolated since March 2009 when Beijing escalated a clampdown on monasteries.
The two brothers had been on the run for more than two weeks, and had been hiding in the hills in a nomad region when they were surrounded and fired upon, according to sources in Tibet and in exile.
Killed on the spot
Yeshe Rigsal, a 40-year monk, and his 38-year-old brother, Yeshe Samdrub, had been pursued by the authorities after they participated in Jan. 23 protests against Chinese rule and calling for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Draggo in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
"He was on the run, and Chinese security forces encircled the place where he was staying and shot him and his brother," said Kalsang, a monk at the Drepung monastery in South India, citing sources in the region.
"Both were killed on the spot," he said.
The Jan. 23 Draggo incident was immediately followed by bloody protests the same week in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county and Dzamthang (in Chinese, Rangtang) county, both also in Sichuan, in which rights and exile groups believe a total of at least six were killed and 60 injured, some critically.
Yeshe Rigsal, from the Draggo monastery in Sichuan, was among those who sustained gunshot wounds when Chinese security forces opened fire at protesters in the first incident.
Separately, another India-based monk confirmed the account of the two men’s deaths, also citing sources in the region.
“It happened this morning, Feb. 9,” the monk, Phuntsog, said. The brothers may have “confronted” their pursuers, he said.
As the shooting incident raised tensions, RFA learned of another self-immolation on Thursday.
Sources said an unidentified monk from Lab monastery set himself ablaze in Qinghai province's Tridu (in Chinese, Chenduo) county seat, the scene of protests against Chinese rule by about 1,000 Tibetans on Wednesday.
The county is in Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) prefecture.
“This morning, a monk of Lab monastery set himself on fire," a caller from Tibet told RFA.
The name and other details of the monk protester were not immediately available.
"After that incident, the Chinese authorities took away the Khenpo [the title of a respected senior monk] and other high lamas of the monastery to the prefecture headquarters in Yushu," the caller said.
"The monks of Lab monastery and other Tibetans in the area are waiting for the Khenpo and lamas to return. If they do not return by today, they are determined to start protests against the Chinese authorities,” he said.
Lab monastery is located on the other side of the mountain where 1,400 Tibetans had protested against Chinese rule a day earlier, according to the caller.
In that protest, about 400 monks from the Zikar monastery launched a 12 kilometer (about seven mile) "solidarity" march to Dzatoe town, but were stopped by security forces halfway at a bridge, angering about 1,000 local residents who then joined the demonstration.
The monks carried white banners calling for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet from exile in India and urging the Chinese authorities to release "innocent" Tibetan prisoners.
The banners, with words written in red and blue, also called on the authorities to "Respect the Tibetans—We are one in happiness and sorrow," and "Respect the Tibetan language."
Also on Wednesday, several hundred Tibetans assembled at a hall in the Dzatoe county seat to conduct a religious gathering but were blocked by Chinese security forces, a Tibetan source in exile said, citing contacts in the region.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 Tibetans then gathered at the scene, the source said.
"The crowd shouted slogans calling for freedom for Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama and ridiculed Tibetan members of the security force who had pointed their weapons at them."
"There were some tense moments between the Tibetans and police, but there was no shooting, and the police withdrew their force," the source said.
Reported by Sonam Wangdue, Lobsang Chophel, and Tsewang Norbu for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee and Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney and Parameswaran Ponnudurai.