Chinese authorities in Gansu province have refused to allow traditional funeral rites to be conducted for a Tibetan man who self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule, forcing his family to cremate him immediately, an advocacy group said on Tuesday.
The family of Tsebey, who succumbed to his burns after setting himself ablaze in Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county on Saturday, attempted to carry out traditional funeral prayer services for him but “were prevented from doing so” by Chinese police and Public Security Bureau officials who arrived in several vehicles, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said.
“”They barred the monks of Amchok monastery and local lay Tibetans from offering prayers and ordered [Tsebey’s] family members to cremate the body as soon as possible,” the Washington-based ICT said in a statement.
“When the family initially said that they needed to perform the customary religious rituals for a death, they were threatened and told that they would be responsible for the consequences if they refused.”
Tsebey, who is believed to have been in his early 20s and is survived by his wife, parents, and two sisters, was the 96th Tibetan to self-immolate since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.
“He called for the return of [exiled Tibetan spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama to Tibet, saying ‘May he live long,’ and ‘Tibet needs freedom,’” a source in Tibet with contacts in Sangchu county’s Amchok township had told RFA’s Tibetan service.
Local Tibetans took his body first to a "safe location" and then to his home before Chinese security forces arrived at the scene of the self-immolation, according to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan exile government in India's hill town Dharamsala.
Chinese authorities have recently increased their efforts to prevent Tibetans from gathering to honor those who die in self-immolation protests, ICT said.
“Self-immolations in Tibet reached an unprecedented level of intensity late last year, with 28 in November 2012 alone, and many of them were followed by gatherings of hundreds, sometimes thousands of Tibetans to say prayers and chant mantras for their passing.”
Following the Chinese order that Tsebey’s family cremate his body immediately, his mother fainted and was taken to a hospital, ICT said, citing Tibetan sources in exile with contacts in the region.
Tsebey’s body was cremated late on the night of Sunday “when most people were asleep, and the Chinese authorities allowed only a few people to attend the cremation,” the rights group said.
Last week, the Dalai Lama called again for Beijing to conduct a “thorough investigation” into the causes of the self-immolation protests, at the same dismissing official Chinese accusation of complicity in the burnings.
Charges that he has incited the burnings from afar are an “indication of desperation” on the part of China’s leaders and are promoted to the Chinese by a policy of “censorship” and “distorted information,” the exiled spiritual leader told India’s NDTV news channel in a talk show.
“They really find it difficult to explain [these events] to the outside world, and also they put a lot of restriction about this information to their own people,” the Dalai Lama said.
“The time has come [for them to conduct] a thorough investigation” into the protests’ causes, he said.
Chinese authorities have beefed up security and clamped down on the Internet and other communications in the areas where self-immolations occur, sources say.
Reported by Richard Finney.