Troop Buildup After New Burning

Chinese security forces enter a Tibetan county as thousands gather at a protest site.
2012-11-08
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tibet-rongwo-305.gif
Tibetans praying over the body of self-immolator Kalsang Jinpa, Nov. 8, 2012.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Updated at 9:25 a.m. EST on 2012-11-09

Chinese paramilitary forces are pouring into a restive Tibetan county in Qinghai province where thousands of Tibetan villagers have converged following a new fatal self-immolation protest against Chinese rule on Thursday, sources said.

The burning was the third in the county in the last week and the sixth in Tibetan-populated areas over the last two days.

Kalsang Jinpa, 18, set himself ablaze at around 4:00 p.m. at Dolma Square in front of the Rongwo monastery in Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county, Tibetan sources said amid concerns over possible clashes between security forces and Tibetan villagers.

“As he burned, he shouted slogans calling for the return to Tibet of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama, and he died at the scene,” Shawo Dorje, a Tibetan living in exile in Switzerland said, citing contacts in the region.

“Immediately afterward, around 5,000 Tibetans assembled at Dolma Square and shouted slogans such as ‘Long live the Dalai Lama!’ and then took Kalsang Jinpa’s body to the Dongya-la funeral ground for cremation,” said Dorje Wangchuk, a Tibetan living in India, also citing local sources.

tibet-Kalsangjinpa-100.gif
An undated photo of Kalsang Jinpa.

Plainclothes police officers mingled with the growing crowd, and local Tibetans, fearing a possible clash with security forces, kept the gathering under control, Wangchuk said.

Party Congress

Jinpa’s protest came after a young Tibetan mother, Tamdrin Tso, 23, burned herself to death on Thursday in Rebgong while calling for the Dalai Lama’s return.

It also came four days after a Tibetan traditional artist, Dorje Lhundrub, 25, set himself ablaze in Rebgong while shouting slogans against Chinese rule.

Also on Thursday, three teenage Tibetan monks set themselves on fire in protests in Sichuan province’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture and a still unidentified Tibetan self-immolated in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Driru county.

The burnings on Wednesday and Thursday—which have raised the self-immolation total to 69 so far—come as the ruling Chinese Communist Party began holding its highly anticipated 18th Party Congress on Thursday.

The meeting is expected to endorse a once-in-a-decade national leadership transition.

'Grave concerns'

Chinese paramilitary trucks are now heading toward Kalsang Jinpa’s Dowa township in Rebgong, as more people from the town attempt to get to Rongwo, the site of Jinpa’s protest, said Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group.

“We have grave concerns for the safety of the people of Rebgong county,” Brigden said.

She noted that Chinese security forces have announced they will do “whatever it takes” to crush protests in the region while the Communist Party holds its meeting in Beijing.

“Now those same forces are being deployed in Rebgong, where thousands of Tibetans are gathered in peaceful protest,” Brigden said.

“As Congress opens, China must be held accountable for its actions in Tibet.”

Reported by Chakmo Tso, Lobsang Sherab, and Palden Gyal for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly placed Rebgong county in Gansu province, instead of in Qinghai province.