Tibetan Father of Two Self-Immolates in Protest Against Chinese Rule

2013-09-28
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An undated photo of Shichung.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET on 2013-9-28

A Tibetan father of two burned himself to death in Sichuan province to protest against Chinese policies in the first self-immolation in China's Tibetan-populated areas in more than two months, according to sources.

Shichung, 41, self-immolated near his house in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture after lighting butter lamps in front of a portrait of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources in Tibet said.

"He was protesting against Chinese policy towards Tibetans," a Tibetan living in the area told RFA's Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The burning protest occurred in the Gomang Yutso township at about 2.30 p.m. after Shichung attended a prayer function. He torched himself at home and ran about 40 steps towards a busy road but succumbed to his burns and died.

"His body was held by the Tibetans but later taken away by the Chinese police by force," the Tibetan source told RFA. "Shichung is survived by his wife and two daughters, aged 18 and 14."

Gunpoint

Chinese police trained their guns at the Tibetans to keep them at bay as they took away the body of Shichung, according to Kanyag Tsering, a Tibet monk at the Kirti exile monastery in India's Dharamsala hill town, where the Dalai Lama lives.

"Some of the Tibetans who had gathered for prayers [nearby] rushed to get possession of the burned body, but the police, who were already present to watch over the prayer gathering, stopped them," Tsering said.

"The police pointed their guns at the Tibetans, took charge of the body, and took it away in a vehicle to Ngaba," he said.

Shichung's burning protest was the first Tibetan self-immolation in China since July 20, when a teenage monk set himself on fire and died in Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo’ergai) county, also in Ngaba prefecture.

The incident on Saturday brings to 122 the total number of Tibetans in China who have self-immolated calling for Tibetan freedom and for the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.

Another six Tibetans have staged self-immolation protests in India and Nepal.

On Aug. 6, a Tibetan monk self-immolated and died in Nepal—the third Tibetan burning protest in the small Himalayan nation where thousands of Tibetan refugees live.

Controls tightened

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.

The authorities have also attempted to pressure local Tibetans to sign an official order that forbids any kind of activities to support or sympathize with self-immolation protests, residents said.

Reported by Lumbum and Yangdon Demo for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.