Three Tibetan monks nursing burns after their failed self-immolation attempts in China’s southwestern Sichuan province are recovering under tight Chinese security in hospitals, a source said Thursday.
One of them, Kalsang Wangchuk, did not suffer serious burns but had a "major" head injury following beatings he received at the hands of Chinese security forces, who had quickly extinguished the flames when he set himself on fire in Ngaba town on Monday.
The three monks were from Kirti monastery in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture and their suicide attempts led to a security crackdown on the monastery and the removal of hundreds of monks from the institution.
They were among five monks who had set themselves alight this year to protest against Chinese rule in Tibetan-majority areas since March—a trend described as alarming by human rights groups who said it highlighted unrelenting Chinese actions to curb religious rights.
"Monk Kalsang Wangchuk is admitted at the People's Hospital in Ngaba county and is being treated on the second floor," said Kanyag Tsering, a monk at the Kirti branch monastery in exile in India.
"All the other patients have been removed from his ward and he is under a very strict surveillance."
A friend of Kalsang Wangchuk, who is 17 or 18 years old, has been allowed to help him at the hospital while several other people were also allowed to meet him, Tsering said.
"It is learned that Kalsang Wangchuk did not suffer severe burns, but on the day of his self-immolation, Chinese security forces assaulted him so much that he suffered a major head injury."
Two other monks, Lobsang Kalsang and Lobsang Konchog, aged 18-19 years old, who self-immolated on Sept. 26, have been admitted to separate hospitals, Tsering said.
A few days ago, it was learned that Lobsang Konchok was in a hospital in the Barkham area in Ngaba prefecture with severe burns, Tsering said. However, none of his friends or relatives were allowed to meet him.
Lobsang Kalsang meanwhile is recovering at a hospital in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.
A few days ago, he was shown over television during in an "official" program in Ngaba with an announcement that his burns were not serious.
Lobsang Kalsang is the brother of Phuntsog, a 21-year-old monk also from Kirti monastery who died after setting himself on fire in March.
The monks had waved the banned Tibetan flag, called for religious freedom and shouted “Long live the Dalai Lama” before they set fire to themselves.
In August, another monk, identified as Tsewang Norbu, 29, from Tawu county’s Nyitso monastery in Sichuan province’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, set himself on fire and died in protest at Beijing’s rule in Tibetan-populated regions.
The situation in the Kirti monastery remains tense although no military presence was seen outside the institution, Tsering said, citing information he received.
"The local residents are having doubts about the conduct of the Chinese [security]. They think that it is just to make people believe that there is no more restriction on the monks," he said.
"Inside Kirti monastery, hundreds of Chinese officials remain posted as before and they are on surveillance 24 hours. They are building four guard posts on four sides outside the periphery of the monastery."
Security has also been stepped up around the "entire" Ngaba county, Tsering said.
Security check-posts have been set up in major road intersections and residents have to show their identification documents, "posing a great difficulty on the people's daily movements."
"Cameras also have been set up on electric poles and rooftops of houses adjacent to the roads leading to Ngaba county office," he said.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.