Police in western China’s Sichuan province detained five Tibetans following the April 15 self-immolation of a 39 year-old father of four, severely beating at least three suspected of close ties to the protest, Tibetan sources say.
Three of those taken into custody were identified as Konchok Gyaltsen, Nyima Tsering, and Tsering Gyatso, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“They were detained on an allegation that they had possession of the mobile phone of Wangchuk Tseten, who self-immolated on April 15,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
All three were severely beaten during questioning, the source said.
Before staging his protest, Tseten had called the three to tell them where his phone could be found, the source said.
“Two of them were later released, but the third is still being held,” he said, adding, “The police took the phone away, and they never learned what information was contained on it.”
Two other Tibetans, still unidentified, were also detained on suspicion of having filmed video of Tseten’s protest, the source said.
'Engulfed in flames'
Tseten, a native of Nyagrong (in Chinese, Xinlong) county in Sichuan’s Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, set himself ablaze at about 7:00 a.m. in a public square of the main town of the prefecture's Kardze county, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
“It seems that he drank a large quantity of kerosene before he lit himself on fire, and also poured it over his body,” another local source said.
“His body was completely engulfed in flames, so it seems there is little chance that he survived.”
As he burned, Tseten called out for the long life of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, RFA’s source said.
“His body was taken away by the police,” he said.
Security forces were quickly sent to question Tseten’s relatives, “raising tensions in his home town,” the source said.
Tseten’s protest brought to 148 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009. Of these, 125 are known to have died.
The previous protest was on March 18, when a 24-year-old Tibetan farmer named Pema Gyaltsen, also from Nyagrong, set himself on fire in Kardze. His fate remains unclear.
Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Sangye Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.