Tibetan Father of Two Self-Immolates in Ngaba

2013-12-04
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kunchok-tseten-305.jpg
Konchok Tseten in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

A Tibetan father of two self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule in a restive Tibetan prefecture in Sichuan province, triggering clashes and a security crackdown in the area, according to sources.

Konchok Tseten, aged 30, torched himself late Tuesday at the Ngaba county's Meruma township center in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, shouting slogans against Beijing's rule in Tibet and calling for the return of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, said the sources, speaking from inside Tibet.

With his body engulfed in flames, Tseten managed to run for a distance along the main street before he collapsed, the sources said.

Local residents clashed with police as they tried but failed to stop security forces from taking the severely injured Tseten away, they said.

"While his body was on fire, he called for the long life of the Dalai Lama and appealed for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet," a Tibetan with contacts in the area told RFA's Tibetan Service.

"He also called for the reunion of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet."

"Even after he collapsed on the ground, he was seen by local witnesses folding his hands together in prayer and uttering some words that were not audible," the Tibetan said.

Eyewitnesses also said that local residents resisted police attempts to take away Tseten, who had suffered severe burns, resulting in a scuffle and the detention of several Tibetans.

"The police arrived at the scene and tried to take him away as he was burning, but the local Tibetans who had gathered at the township resisted and tried to stop the police. This lasted for about one hour before the security forces took him away," another Tibetan said.

Relatives detained

Police detained Tseten's wife and several of his relatives, among others.

"All the Tibetan stores and restaurants in Meruma town were ordered to be closed and many mobile phones were confiscated from the locals."

Details of Tseten's condition were not immediately available amid a clampdown on information in Ngaba county following the self-immolation, the 124th since Tibetans launched burning protests in 2009 calling for Tibetan freedom and for the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check self-immolation protests, arresting and jailing Tibetans whom they accuse of being linked to the burnings. Some have been jailed for up to 15 years.

The authorities have also attempted to pressure local Tibetans to sign an official order that forbids any kind of activities to support or sympathize with self-immolation protests, residents said.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi and Lobe Socktsang for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.