Monk Burns Himself Amid Mass Protests

The 29th Tibetan self-immolation comes amid a 1,000-strong protest demanding the release of detained monks.

Gepasumdo-305 Protesters gather in front of the Gepasumdo county government office, March 16, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Gan Nyur

Another Tibetan monk self-immolated Friday in China's Sichuan province in protest over Chinese rule while more than 1,000 Tibetans demonstrated in neighboring Qinghai province demanding the release of more than 50 monks who were detailed a day earlier in a monastery crackdown.

Twenty-year-old Lobsang Tsultrim was in flames as he ran shouting slogans against Chinese rule near the county office in Sichuan's Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture, eyewitnesses told India-based monks Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe.

"He was pursued by Chinese policemen who beat him, knocked him down, and threw him into an open truck," Tsering quoted one eyewitness as saying.

"He was seen being taken away but he kept pumping his fists in the air."

Lobsang Tsultrim in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe
Tsultrim, the eldest in a family of four and who was ordained as a monk when he was eight, was from the restive Kirti monastery, which has been surrounded and sealed by security forces which have also beefed up security across Ngaba county.

He is the 29th Tibetan to have self-immolated since February 2009 amid a wave of fiery Tibetan protests challenging Beijing's rule and calling for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Tibetan flag

The self-immolation came as more than 1,000 Tibetans protested in Gepasumdo (in Chinese, Tongde) county in Qinghai province on Friday calling for the release of about 50 monks who had been held for raising the Tibetan flag and demanding freedom a day earlier, according to sources.

“Over a thousand Tibetans converged at the county building and demanded that all the monks detained should be released," a local Tibetan source told RFA.

"They persisted in the peaceful protests and the county government building was surrounded by police and paramilitary forces."

The source said there was no confrontation as elder Tibetans had advised the protesters to "persist in their peaceful defiance and not become involved in any kind of violence."

The protest was triggered by a crackdown by Chinese security forces on the Ba Shangtre monastery Thursday after about 150 to 200 monks from the institution raised the Tibetan flag at the Gepasumdo (in Chinese, Tongde) county in Tsolho (in Chinese, Hainan) prefecture.

They also displayed banners calling for freedom for Tibet, the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, and for human rights for Tibetans before marching through the streets, the Tibetan source said.

“Some time that evening, 40 Chinese vehicles arrived at the monastery and the Chinese police and paramilitary surrounded it. They searched the residences of the monks and detained about 60 monks," the source said.

"Fifty of them were held back at the county detention center while 10 were released.”

Security forces guard the Gepasumdo county government office, March 16, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Gan Nyar


Chinese police at Gepasumdo county refused to confirm the protests.

When RFA asked the person who answered the phone at the police station whether there was a 1,000-strong protest, he said, "There wasn't."

Asked whether the protesters were all students, he hung up the phone.

Tensions have heightened in Tibetan-populated provinces and in the Tibet Autonomous Region following a Chinese security clampdown and the detention of hundreds of monks since early last year.

Earlier this week, several thousand students protested in three counties in Qinghai on Wednesday to challenge a possible change in the medium of instruction in schools.

The protests against a proposed change from Tibetan to Chinese language occurred in schools in Rebkong (in Chinese, Tongren), Tsekhog (Zeku) and Kangtsa (Gangcha) counties, according to a Tibetan exile spokesman for the Rebkong community based in the Indian hilltown of Dharamsala.

It was the biggest protest since October 2010 when thousands of Tibetan middle and primary school pupils from four different Tibetan autonomous prefectures in Qinghai Province demonstrated for days against a language change policy.


The latest self-immolation came nearly a week after Uprising Day on March 10, the politically sensitive anniversary of the 1959 flight into exile of the Dalai Lama and of regionwide protests throughout Tibet in 2008.

The wave of self-immolations prompted a call last week from well-known Tibetan blogger Woeser and senior Tibetan religious leader Arjia Rinpoche to end the fiery protests, saying that Tibetans opposed to Chinese rule should instead "stay alive to struggle and push forward" their goals.

Reported by Lumbum, Kunsang Tenzin, Lobe Socktsang, and Rigdhen Dolma for RFA's Tibetan service and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translation by Karma Dorjee, Rigdhen Dolma, and Feng Xiaoming. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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Apr 02, 2012 02:58 AM

Self immolation is a crime and stupid.It is not the good ways to fight for something.You can do other thing to express yourselves.