Two young Tibetan men set themselves on fire near a restive monastery in China’s Sichuan province and died Monday in protest against Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, Tibetan sources in exile said.
Their self-immolation came two days after a nun in a neighboring prefecture braved tight security restriction and staged a solitary protest, also challenging Beijing’s rule, before she was detained and taken away.
Lobsang Kalsang, 18 and a monk at Kirti monastery, and Damchoe, 17 and an ex-monk, self-immolated at a site near the eastern gate of Kirti monastery and close to Heroes’ Street in Ngaba, the sources said, referring to a main road in Ngaba town which has become the epicenter of burning protests challenging Chinese rule.
As they burned, both shouted slogans condemning Chinese policies in Tibet, India-based monks Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe said, citing contacts in the region.
“Witnesses saw them run about 20 steps with their bodies on fire, and then they fell to the ground,” they said, adding that sounds of “Ki! Ki!,” a Tibetan battle cry, could later be heard coming from the flames.
Police took both men to Ngaba hospital, and then to a hospital in nearby Barkham county, “but later in the evening, both men died, and their bodies are still in the possession of the authorities,” Tsering and Yeshe said.
“No information is available as to whether the authorities have handed the bodies over to their relatives,” they said.
Total now at 51
Speaking separately to RFA on condition of anonymity, two Ngaba residents confirmed the self-immolations on Monday, saying the two protesters set themselves ablaze at about 11:00 a.m. local time.
“They held their protest … close to Heroes’ Street in Ngaba,” one source said.
Their burnings bring to 51 the total number of self-immolations since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009, with nearly all of the protests taking place in Tibetan-populated provinces in western China.
Most were protests against Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader who now lives in exile in Dharamsala, India.
The last reported self-immolation before Monday’s protest was on Aug. 13 when two young Tibetan men, one a Kirti monk and the other a former monk, set themselves on fire and walked, burning and shouting slogans, along the main street of Ngaba town before being overwhelmed and taken away by police.
The burnings triggered protests by residents, leading to a Chinese security crackdown in which one Tibetan was beaten to death.
Damchoe, one of the men who died on Monday, was a nephew of the other self-immolator, Lobsang Kalsang, and was the younger brother of a nun named Tenzin Chodron who died in an earlier protest, Tsering and Yeshe said.
“He was a monk of Kirti monastery, but later he disrobed and lived with his mother in a nomadic community.”
After Monday’s protest, Chinese police detained Lobsang Kalsang’s roommate Lobsang Palden at Kirti monastery, Tsering and Yeshe said.
Nun protests, is detained
Meanwhile, a 39-year-old Tibetan nun staged a lone protest on Saturday in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, calling for freedom for Tibet, a Tibetan source in exile said, citing sources in the region.
“A nun by the name of Shedrub Lhamo protested at around 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 25 in Kardze town,” India-based monk Pema Tsewang said, citing sources in Kardze.
“She shouted slogans calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama and for his return to Tibet and for freedom for Tibet. She also threw several leaflets in the air before she was detained by police,” he said.
What was written on the leaflets is not known, but a foreign tourist who was present took a photo of a leaflet and was also immediately detained, Pema Tsewang said.
“The police seized his camera and took him away in a vehicle. It is not clear whether or not he was later released.”
“Relatives of the nun protester went to the detention center to bring her some clothes,” he said. “The police took them and said they would hand them over.”
Shedrub Lhamo’s father was identified as Tsewang Gyurme and her mother as Tsering Palmo. A native of Shang Khag village in the Khadrag subdivision of Sichuan’s Kardze county, she is a nun belonging to Ganden Choeling monastery in Kardze, Pema Tsewang said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.