Senior Tibetan monks at the restive Kirti monastery, a symbol of dissent against Chinese rule, have been summoned by authorities for questioning amid a new wave of deadly self-immolations, according to Tibetan sources in exile.
Kirti, located in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Sichuan province, has been the scene of repeated self-immolations by monks, former monks, and nuns who have set themselves ablaze in a challenge to rule by Beijing.
On Monday, 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.
In a bid to strengthen control over Kirti monks, Chinese authorities have called in two monastic leaders for questioning, India-based monks Lobsang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering said, citing sources in the region.
“The disciplinarian in charge and the head of religious affairs at Kirti monastery have been called in for meetings at the Ngaba county center several times,” Yeshe and Tsering said.
Senior Tibetan religious officials are typically held responsible for the activities of those under their charge, and are frequently harassed by authorities, sources say.
Protester dies from burns
Meanwhile, a second death has been confirmed from Monday’s self-immolation protest in Ngaba town.
“Tashi, one of the two men who self-immolated in protest against China on Aug. 13 died at Barkham [county hospital] on Aug. 14,” Yeshe and Tsering said.
“It is difficult to say for sure whether his remains were handed over to family members,” they said.
Tashi, 21, an ex-monk from Kirti, and Lungtok, 20, who was currently enrolled as a Kirti monk, set themselves ablaze at about 6:50 p.m. local time to highlight their opposition to Chinese rule in Tibetan areas.
Both were quickly seized by police, who beat Tashi as he burned, Yeshe and Tsering said, quoting witnesses to the fiery protest.
Lungtok was confirmed on Tuesday to have died.
Yeshe and Tsering said that Tibetan-owned businesses were closed on Tuesday in a gesture of support for the two men’s protest.
“To express their solidarity with the two self-immolators of Aug. 13 and to console family members, all shops, hotels, and restaurants owned by Tibetans remained closed on Aug. 14 in Ngaba town,” Yeshe and Tsering said.
“Many Tibetans also visited monasteries to make offerings and pray for the dead protesters,” they added.
Forty-nine Tibetans have self-immolated since the current wave of fiery protests began at Kirti monastery in February 2009, with nearly all of the protests taking place in Tibetan-populated provinces in western China.
The first self-immolation protest in the Tibetan capital Lhasa was reported in May, when two young Tibetan men set themselves on fire in a central square of the heavily guarded city.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.