Respected Tibetan Monk Burns Himself to Death in Gansu

2013-12-19
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An undated photo of Tsultrim Gyatso.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A respected Tibetan monk burned himself to death in Gansu province on Thursday in protest against "suppressive Chinese law," saying in a suicide note that he wanted to "sacrifice" his life for the interest of the Tibetans, according to sources.

Tsultrim Gyatso, 43, self-immolated at a road junction in Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture after penning his one-page suicide note at his monastery in which he also called for the return of the exiled Tibetan spirtual leader the Dalai Lama, the sources in the area said.

"Before his self-immolation at a cross-section in Sangchu, he went to his room after lunch break, lit a lamp, opened a book on the teachings of Buddha and wrote his one-page suicide note," a Tibetan lecturer at the Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education (DLIHE) in Bangalore, India, told RFA's Tibetan Service.

"Tibetan treasures of gold and silver have been looted under suppressive Chinese law," Gyatso said in his note, according to the lecturer, citing contacts in the region. "All citizens are driven to sufferings," Gyatso said.

"Tears drop from my eyes when I dwell on this state of sufferings [of the Tibetans]," according to Gyatso's note. "For the return of the Dalai Lama, and the release of the Panchen Lama, and the well being of six million Tibetans, I sacrifice my precious life in self-immolation."

The Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was just six years old when he was kidnapped by the Chinese authorities in 1995 after he was identified as the reincarnation of the second-highest monk in Tibetan Buddhism by the Dalai Lama, who is living in exile in India.

A Tibetan source in Sangchu told RFA that Gyatso, known locally for his accomplishments in the study of Buddhism and Tibetan culture, died on the spot and his body was taken to the Achok monastery where more than 400 monks conducted funeral prayers.

Prayers stopped by police

Chinese police ordered the monks to halt the prayers but the monks continued the prayers in a different section of the monastery, the Tibetan lecturer in Banglore said.

"Over 400 monks of Achok monastery were saying prayers for the late Tsultrim Gyatso but a group of 10 Sangchu police arrived at the monastery and interrupted the prayers. The monks [in a different section of the monastery] continued the prayers," he said.

Gyatso's burning protest was the 125th Tibetan self-immolation in China since the fiery campaign began in 2009 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.

Before Gyatso's burning protest, a Tibetan herdsman had self-immolated on Dec. 4 in protest against Chinese rule at Ngaba county's Meruma township center in Sichuan province.

He died on the way to the hospital and his remains were secretly cremated by the authorities.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Controls tightened

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.

In the latest crackdown, the authorities detained two monks and a government worker on suspicion they were supportive of 20-year-old Tibetan monk Tsering Gyal, who burned himself to death in Qinghai province last month in protest against Chinese rule, according to sources this week.

The two monks were dragged at night from their quarters, while the government worker was beaten and detained for possession of Gyal's photo on her mobile phone, the sources said this week.

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