In the second such case reported this year, a Tibetan Buddhist monk has set himself on fire and died in protest at Beijing’s rule in Tibetan-populated regions of China, according to a Tibetan source in exile.
The monk—identified as Tsewang Norbu, 29—set himself ablaze on Monday, said Chime Tendzin, a monk living in southern India and citing contacts in Sichuan province’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, where the self-immolation took place.
“At around 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, a monk from Tawu [county’s] Nyitso monastery protested near a bridge in front of the county headquarters,” Chime Tendzin said.
“He shouted slogans calling for freedom for Tibet and for the return to Tibet of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and distributed leaflets calling for human rights in Tibet.”
The monk then doused himself with kerosene and set himself alight, continuing to shout slogans for about 15 minutes until he died, Chime Tendzin said.
China’s official Xinhua news agency confirmed the death on Monday, saying “It was unclear why he had burnt himself.”
Chime Tendzin said that Chinese armed police have now surrounded Tawu Nyitso monastery and have demanded that Tsewang Norbu’s body be given to them.
“Security has been tightened in the county in the wake of this incident. The situation is very tense now in Tawu.”
“For now, the monastery has kept the body covered in a yellow scarf,” Chime Tendzin said, adding that the monastery is conducting prayers for the dead monk and have refused to hand over his body.
Chime Tendzin gave Tsewang Norbu’s father’s name as Tsoleg and mother’s name as Shogleg, and the website Tibet Express identified the dead monk’s home village as Lowa, in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county.
“[In previous years], the Tibetan people in Tawu county celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday with great fanfare,” Chime Tendzin said.
“But this year, the Chinese government blocked this celebration in the monastery, and even cut off electricity and water for the monastery and a nunnery, which infuriated the local people.”
Kardze has been the scene of repeated Tibetan protests, both by individuals and by small groups, despite the threat of detentions and violent assaults against protesters by Chinese police.
In March, Phuntsog, a monk at the Kirti monastery in Ngaba prefecture, set fire to himself in protest at rule by Beijing, leading to a security crackdown by Chinese forces and the forced removal of about 300 monks from the monastery.
The London-based Free Tibet rights group has expressed concern that the same crackdown will take place in Tawu.
“Following Phuntsog’s death, the Chinese regime deployed troops onto the streets of Ngaba, forcibly removed hundreds of monks, imposed curfews, undertook house searches, and set up military roadblocks around the town which remain six months later," Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement.
"We have grave concerns over what could unfold in Tawu," she added.
“In the last few hours, telephone lines have been cut and Internet cafes closed in an effort to control news spreading across Tibet and to prevent news being shared with the outside world," Brigden said.
"We have received reports that the army has surrounded the monastery. We call on the Chinese authorities to act proportionately.”
Reported by Soepa Gyaltso for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.