Second Nun Dies in Protest

In the 11th self-immolation this year, a Tibetan woman succumbs to her burns.
2011-11-03
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tibet-nun2-305.gif
Undated photo of Palden Choetso at her nunnery.
Photo courtesy of Central Tibetan Administration
A second Tibetan nun burned herself to death Thursday in protest against Chinese rule, sparking a rally of thousands calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, sources said.

The 35-year-old nun was identified as Palden Choetso or Choesang by the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, and is the 11th Tibetan to self-immolate this year amid a crackdown on monasteries and harassment of monks by Chinese authorities.

Choesang, from the Darkar Choeling nunnery in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county in Sichuan province's Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, set herself on fire while chanting “Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama," “Free Tibet” and “Let His Holiness return to Tibet” at a public prayer session.

"She has succumbed while committing the selfless act and her body was taken away to nearby Nyitso monastery by the witnesses," said the India-based Central Tibetan Administration in a statement.

"Choesang had drunk kerosene and doused herself with kerosene before setting herself alight," said a resident, identified as Jingpa, in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives.

"In about minute she fell to the ground, but then she rose and [chanted the slogans again] with hands clasped. Her entire body was engulfed with fire, and flames were shooting out of her mouth, her slogans become inaudible.

"It took her a few minutes before she fell to the ground again and succumbed to the burns."

Wildfire

Jingpa said local police attempted to take possession of her body but angry Tibetans at the scene protested and brought the corpse to the Nyitso monastery and kept in the prayer hall.

News of her death spread like wildfire, drawing thousands of Tibetans to the streets shouting slogans praising Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and calling for his return to the territory.

"After the nun’s self immolation, thousands of local Tibetans gathered at Tawu market areas and shouted slogans such as 'Long Live the Dalai Lama,' before proceeding to Nyitso monastery," Jingpa said.

"The monastery has now been besieged by local Tibetans."

Chinese security forces have positioned themselves around the monastery and nunnery. Officials from the two institutions have also been summoned to the police station.

"The reasons why they were called to police station are unclear,” Jingpa said.

Citing reports, the Central Tibetan Administration said that Chinese security forces surrounded the monastery in an attempt to "suppress the information" of the nun's death.

The local government has launched an investigation into the incident, China's state Xinhua news agency said.

Threat

Most of the self-immolations have occurred in Sichuan province, especially in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture.

But Kardze has been the scene of repeated Tibetan protests, both by individuals and by small groups, despite the threat of detentions and violent assaults against protesters by Chinese police.

Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for the tense situation, saying he is encouraging the self-immolations, which run contrary to Buddhist teachings.

But the Dalai Lama shot back, blaming China's "ruthless and illogical" policy towards Tibet.

He called on the Chinese government to change its "repressive" policies in Tibet, citing the crackdown on monasteries and policies curtailing use of the Tibetan language.

Tensions in the Tibet Autonomous Region and in Tibetan-populated areas in China's provinces have not subsided since anti-China riots swept through the Tibetan Plateau in March 2008.

Lobsang Sangay, the head of the Central Tibetan Administration, said at the National Press Club in Washington on Wednesday that the government-in-exile did not encourage Tibetans in China to protest, including burning themselves.

This, he said, was because of the consequences they faced in the hands of the Chinese authorities, including alleged torture and the prospect of death.

Reported by Dorjee Damdul for RFA's Tibetan service. Translation by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.