Two Tibetans Die in Burning Protests

2013-04-24
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tibet-tagtsang-lhamo-monks-april-2013.jpg
Undated photos of Lobsang Dawa (l) and Konchog Woeser (r) of the Tagtsang Lhamo Kirti monastery.
Photos courtesy of RFA listeners

Updated at 11:30 a.m. ET on 2013-04-25

Two monks set themselves ablaze and died Wednesday in Sichuan province’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous  Prefecture in protests against Chinese rule, sources in the region and in exile said.

An earlier RFA report that a 23-year-old Tibetan woman protester set herself on fire and died in Sichuan’s Dzamthang (in Chinese, Rangtang) county in Ngaba on Wednesday was found to be inaccurate.  

Tibetan writer Woeser, one of the sources of the report, later said there could have been a mix-up over a fatal self-immolation protest by a woman named Chugtso near Dzamthang county’s Jonang monastery on April 16.

"After investigation it was learned that it was not factually accurate," she said in her latest blog entry. "Therefore, I have deleted my previous blog entry."

The burning protests by the monks bring to 118 the number of Tibetan self-immolations since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.

The two monks from the Tagtsang Lhamo Kirti monastery in Dzoege [in Chinese, Ruo’ergai] county set themselves alight and died near the monastery, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing sources in the region.

They staged “a fiery protest against Chinese policy in Tibet,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They died at around 6:30 p.m. local time near the main assembly hall of the monastery.”

Sources identified the monks as Lobsang Dawa, 20, and Konchog Woeser, 23.

Lobsang Dawa came originally from Dzaru Menma village in Dzoege country, while Konchog Woeser was a native of Tsakho village in the Kirti Kangchu township in Ngaba (Aba) county, one source said.

Monks hold prayers

Their bodies were moved to the monastery, where monks held prayers for them, said India-based monks Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe, citing contacts in the region.

Lobsang Dawa, 20, was the son of Dorje Khandro, 62, while Konchog Woeser, 23, was the son of Tsering Norbu and Samdrub Drolma, according to Tsering and Yeshe.

They will be cremated on Thursday, the two monks said.

No options?

Tibetans resort to self-immolations because they are left with no options in their demand for better rights, according to rights groups  

Though self-immolation protests by Tibetans under Chinese rule are no longer unexpected, “each individual’s choice to undertake this most extreme form of protest remains deeply important,” said Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, director of the London-based advocacy group Free Tibet.

“All the Tibetans who resort to self-immolation do so because they feel they have no other way to make China and the rest of the world listen to their country’s call for freedom,” Byrne-Rosengren said in a Wednesday statement.

“As yet, China is still turning a deaf ear, but the rest of the world must not,” Byrne-Rosengren said.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in Tibet and in Tibetan prefectures in Chinese provinces to check the self-immolations, cutting communication links with outside areas and jailing Tibetans they believe to be linked to the burnings.

More than a dozen have been jailed so far, with some handed jail terms of up to 15 years.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi and Yangdon Demo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story had inaccurately said that a Tibetan woman had also self-immolated. A key source of the report now indicates there may have been a mix-up with the self-immolation of a woman earlier this month.