A Tibetan man set himself on fire and died Tuesday in front of a police station near the famous Labrang monastery in Gansu province—the seventh self-immolation in protest of Chinese rule in nearly a month, according to Tibetan sources.
Local Tibetans jostled with Chinese police and managed to retrieve the remains of Dorje Rinchen, 58, after the self-immolation at 3:30 p.m. along the main road of Labrang town in the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
Tensions flared when Chinese security forces prevented Tibetan monks from the Labrang monastery from going to Dorje Rinchen’s residence in Upper Zayu Village in Kanlho prefecture’s Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county to pay their last respects.
In a sign of protest, the monks recited prayers for him on the roadside.
Local Tibetans also headed to Dorje Rinchen’s residence amid reports of a Chinese security buildup in the area.
The latest burning is the third to take place in Gansu since Saturday and the seventh in Tibetan regions in less than a month, and brings to 58 the total number of self-immolations challenging Chinese rule and demanding the return of Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama since February 2009.
“Chinese security personnel stationed in the area tried to remove Dorje Rinchen’s charred body, but local Tibetans also tried to take possession of the remains,” a Labrang resident told RFA’s Tibetan service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“After a brief scuffle, the Tibetans got hold of his body and took it to his house,” he said.
“On hearing the news, monks from Labrang Monastery rushed to the deceased’s house to say prayers, but were stopped on the way by Chinese police," the source said.
"So they sat down on the road and prayed there."
Area closed off
Dorje Rinchen’s self-immolation was confirmed in a brief report in official Chinese media on Tuesday.
“Dorje Rinchen got up very early this morning and went to pray at Labrang monastery. He walked around the monastery several times, and walked three times between the monastery and his home,” a source said.
“After that, he cleaned his house inside and out and then went to the Chinese police station, where he self-immolated and died.”
Many Tibetans “are now heading to Zayu, where a large number of security personnel have already been deployed,” the online Tibet Times said in a separate report.
“Communication channels in the area have been cut following the protest, making it difficult to get more details,” Tibet Times said.
Dorje Rinchen leaves behind a wife, Luthar Tso, and a son, Tabo.
Tuesday’s burning came a day after a protester named Dhondup set fire to himself at Labrang, and two days after a Tibetan father of two named Lhamo Kyap set himself ablaze and charged at Chinese security personnel at Bora monastery in the same county.
Lhamo Kyap succumbed to his burns after shouting slogans against Chinese rule and calling for the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama.
The self-immolation protests have intensified despite recent calls to Tibetans by Tibetan exile groups to stop the “drastic actions."
Similar expressions of concern from the Dalai Lama himself over the burnings have gone largely unheeded in the past.
In the latest statement at the weekend, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Tibet’s India-based government in exile, called on China’s government to “address [Tibetans’] genuine and long-standing grievances, and find a lasting solution to the problem of Tibet through dialogue.”
“We again strongly reiterate our long-standing appeal to the international community to press the Chinese government to end the deepening crisis in Tibet,” CTA spokesperson Dicki Choyang said.
Chinese authorities have labeled the self-immolators as terrorists, outcasts, criminals, and mentally ill people, and have accused the Dalai Lama of encouraging the burnings.
Reported by Guru Choegyi and Lumbum for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul and Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.