A Tibetan monk has burned himself to death near a monastery in northwestern China's Gansu province in the latest self immolation protest challenging Chinese rule, exile sources said Thursday, citing local contacts.
Kunchok Tenzin, 28, torched himself at a major road intersection near his Mori monastery in Luchu (in Chinese, Luqu) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on Tuesday, the sources said.
News of the burning protest was relayed only two days later due to communication difficulties, they said.
"He set himself on fire at 7 p.m. at a major crossroads in close proximity to the monastery in protest against the ruthless Chinese policy in Tibet and died," India-based Tibetan exile monks Kanyak Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi said in a statement.
"Fearing they may lose custody of the body to the Chinese security forces, the Tibetans in the area managed to move his body to the monastery first and then cremated him late at night," they said.
“After the fiery protest, security forces were deployed in all the neighboring towns located in the neighborhood of Mori monastery and restrictions were imposed on the locals," according to Kanyak Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi, who are based in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama lives.
They said that Kunchok Tenzin was enrolled in the monastery at a young age and known for his "accomplishments in the study of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.”
His burning raised the number of Tibetan self-immolation protests challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet to 114.
Earlier Thursday, it was confirmed for the first time that a Tibetan monk and his niece had died nearly a year ago in a self-immolation protest against Chinese rule and not due to a home accident as reported previously.
Tulku Athup and niece Atse self-immolated at his Dzogchen monastery in Sichuan Province on April 6 last year, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the official name of the India-based exile government, said on its website on Wednesday.
But fearing closure of the monastery, officials at the institution had told Chinese police then that they had died due to an "accidental fire," the CTA said.
The police then withdrew from the monastery.
On the day of his burning protest, he told his family by phone: “Today I feel at ease and [am] ending my life by offering butter lamps for all those Tibetans who have set themselves on fire for the cause of Tibet," according to the CTA. "Immediately after making the call, he and his niece set themselves on fire."
Tulku Athup was 47 years old when he died and Atse was 25.
Kate Saunders, London-based spokesperson for the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), said that though Tulku Athup and Atse are already referenced in an ICT database of self-immolators, they were never listed in the advocacy group's final count.
"Shortly, we may include them in our total of Tibetans who have self-immolated in China," Saunders said.
13 'unlawful behaviors' in Malho
Chinese authorities have recently tightened controls in Tibetan-populated areas to check the self-immolation protests, arresting and jailing more than a dozen Tibetans who they accused of being linked to the burnings. Some were jailed up to 15 years.
In the latest move, sources told RFA's Tibetan Service this week that Chinese authorities are circulating a new list of 13 “unlawful” behaviors in a protest-hit Tibetan county in China’s northwestern Qinghai province, warning Tibetans against involvement in self-immolation protests and a range of other activities deemed supportive of challenges to Chinese rule.
An undated document listing the restricted behaviors, including filming self-immolation protests and seeking welfare donations, has been disseminated in all towns and villages of Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in Qinghai’s Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the sources said.
A typed copy of the document was received on Wednesday by RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Prohibitions listed in the document are aimed at “strengthening the protection of social stability and maintaining discipline by cracking down on unlawful activities in the relevant areas,” the document, written in Tibetan, says.
Activities now forbidden include fundraising “in the name of social welfare,” urging protection of the environment or the Tibetan language, and conducting prayer rituals or other religious ceremonies if these carry “overtones” of support for Tibetan independence.
Other unlawful activities listed as unlawful include “intimidating” government officials, inciting self-immolation protests, obstructing the “rescue” of self-immolators by Chinese security forces, and sending images or information about self-immolations to “outside separatist forces.”
The list particularly bars Tibetans from “taking pictures and filming the actual scene of self-immolation and mass gatherings” and “providing secret information to separatist forces,” apparently referring to Tibetan exile groups.
Some reports said the new list was based on points made by an unnamed senior Chinese official at a recent provincial-level meeting.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai and Richard Finney.