Updated at 2:00 p.m. EST on 11-21-2012
A Tibetan man burned himself to death on Monday in China’s Qinghai province about a week after being overcome with emotion seeing Tibetan elders mourn the growing number of self-immolation deaths in protest against Chinese rule, according to sources.
It was the third self-immolation death in the last three days and the 77th Tibetan burning since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.
Wangchen Norbu, 25, set himself ablaze at around 8:00 p.m. local time near the Kangtsa Ganden Choeling monastery in Yadzi (in Chinese, Xunhua Salar) county in the Tsoshar (Haidong) Prefecture, a Tibetan resident of the area told RFA.
“As he burned, he called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, for the release of the Panchen Lama, and for freedom for Tibetans,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Norbu is survived by his father, Tenzin, and mother, Khandro Tso, the source said.
Prayers and grief
A second local source confirmed the burning, saying that Norbu had been present at a Nov. 8 prayer gathering at the monastery for other Tibetan self-immolations who have lost their lives in anti-China protests.
“He became emotional when he saw many elderly Tibetan mourners faint from grief,” he said.
In a highly charged scene at about 10:30 p.m., Norbu’s remains were cremated by a large gathering of monks and other Tibetans amid prayers and loud calls for the long life of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the source said.
“Several policemen also arrived at the scene,” he added.
Norbu’s protest followed by two days the burning deaths of two other Tibetans, a man and a woman, in Qinghai’s restive Rebgong county.
In the first incident, mother of two Chakmo Kyi set fire to herself and died at around 4:00 p.m. on Saturday at the doorstep of a tax office in Rongwo town, triggering a clash over her charred body by local Tibetans and Chinese security forces.
Sangdag Tsering, 24, burned himself three hours later in front of local government offices in Rebgong’s Dokar Mo town, hours after local authorities issued an order forbidding area residents to pay respect to self-immolators or grieve with their relatives.
Self-immolations by Tibetans have intensified in recent weeks, and especially during the 18th Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which endorsed a once-in-a-decade national leadership transition on Thursday.
“The extent of [these] protests, which are now happening on a daily basis, is clear evidence of Tibetans’ absolute rejection of Chinese rule,” Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group, said in a statement at the weekend .
“How many more protests will China try to crush before the Communist Party recognizes Tibet belongs to Tibetans?” Brigden asked.
“How many more Tibetans will the world watch die in this way before clear, strong steps are taken to resolve this crisis?”
Reported by Palden Gyal and Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Tsoshar Prefecture as a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.