Clampdown Imposed as Nun Secretly Cremated After Burning Protest

2013-06-17
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Assembly of monks at Nyatso monastery, June 10, 2013.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Chinese authorities have moved to block demonstrations of support for a Tibetan nun who was secretly cremated after she died days after her self-immolation protest in Sichuan province,  according to sources.  

The local government in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture has also restricted family members of Wangchen Dolma to their home after she died in hospital on Friday following her burning protest three days earlier during a large religious gathering near a monastery, Tibetan sources in the region and in exile said.

On the same day of the death of Wangchen Dolma, aged 31, a group of local officials arrived at her home, an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Sunday.

“[They] forbade their neighbors, relatives, nuns, and monks from visiting her house,” the resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“At the same time, they ordered family members to remain within the confines of their house,” he said.

Separately, Tibet’s India-based government in exile, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), confirmed Wangchen Dolma’s June 14 death at a hospital in Sichuan’s Dartsedo (Kangding) county, adding that Chinese authorities had quickly cremated the nun’s remains at the hospital rather than return them to her family.

“The authorities have surreptitiously cremated the body at the hospital. They have also kept the family members of the deceased under house arrest,” the CTA said on its website on Monday.

Because authorities had cut off all phone and Internet connections to the area, details concerning the nun’s identity and background were not immediately available after her self-immolation, CTA said.

'Additional distress'

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A copy of a flyer circulated at a religious gathering asking for prayers for self-immolator Wangchen Dolma.

Authorities’ refusal to hand over Wangchen Dolma’s remains or ashes so that her family could perform traditional death ceremonies have caused her relatives “additional distress,” the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group said in a  statement on Monday.

“Chinese authorities also prevented local people from visiting the family to pray and show solidarity. The family were ordered to not contact people about Wangchen Dolma’s protest or visit the monastery,” Free Tibet said.

Following Dolma’s protest, monks and nuns attending the annual gathering at Nyatso monastery circulated a leaflet requesting “prayers and blessings” for the deceased nun, “who self-immolated … for Tibet’s political and religious freedom.”

While the majority of Tibetans who have set themselves ablaze to protest Chinese rule are lay people, “it is not uncommon for them to stage their protests near monasteries,” Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said in a statement the day after Wangchen Dolma’s protest.

“While Chinese authorities have permitted the gathering at Nyatso monastery this year, Tibet’s religious heritage has been decimated by the Chinese occupation and what remains is barely tolerated by the regime.”

“Restrictions on religious practice by the Chinese regime are among the deepest grievances of the Tibetan people,” Byrne-Rosengren said.

Wangchen Dolma was a daughter of the Gyalbum family of Drakthok village in Tawu, the source said. Her father’s name was Tenzin and her mother’s name was Yudron.

Wangchen Dolma’s fatal burning brings to 120 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karme Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.