Two Tibetan cousins have set themselves ablaze in a central Tibetan county in the deadliest week of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule, according to sources Saturday.
Tsepo, 20, died while Tenzin, 25, was taken away by security forces after they self-immolated in front of a school in Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in the Nagchu (in Chinese, Naqu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region on Thursday, the sources said.
The self-immolations, confirmed only on Saturday due to a security and communication clampdown in the area, raises to seven the number of Tibetan protest burnings in the past week.
Six of the seven have died in the highest number of burnings and deaths in one week and brings to 62 the total number of self-immolations since February 2009, when Tibetans began to torch themselves to challenge Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas.
Local contacts told Tibetans in exile that the cousins set themselves alight and shouted slogans calling for freedom in Tibet and the return of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama as they protested in front of a school in Narong Phampa subdivision, Unit 2, in Driru county.
They also pleaded for all Tibetans to be "united like brothers,” said Narwang Tharpa, a Tibetan living in exile in India, citing people in the area.
“Currently, the Chinese security forces have surrounded the Narong village, and stopped all communication channels, rendering it difficult to be in contact [with people there]," he said. "Hence, getting the detailed situation on the ground is difficult.”
“It has taken two days for information about this latest protest to emerge. Tibetans in Driru County are being intimidated in both visible and invisible ways," London-based advocacy group Free Tibet's director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement.
“Chinese state security forces have been deployed in large numbers across Driru county. The Internet and telephones are often blocked and, when they are working, Tibetans are afraid to talk about what is happening because they fear that their communications are being monitored by the government."
Forefront of opposition
Tibetans in Driru have been in the forefront of opposition to Chinese rule in the Tibet Autonomous Region since deadly riots in the region in 2008, with monks and nuns protesting and abandoning monasteries in order to defy “intrusive” new Chinese regulations.
Most of the 62 burnings so far have occurred in Tibetan-populated areas of the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu.
There have been seven burnings so far in the Tibetan Autonomous Region—three in Driru, two in the regional capital Lhasa and one each in Chamdo county's Karma township, and in the town of Damshung, just outside Lhasa.
Tibet’s India-based exile parliament has meanwhile called on foreign governments and human rights organizations to apply “meaningful pressure” on China to end the crisis in Tibet.
“The self-immolations by Tibetans [are the] highest form of nonviolent protest against the Chinese government’s systematic repression of their freedom of religion and human rights,” the parliament said in a statement Wednesday.
Reported by Lobsang Sherab for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.