Tibetan Self-Immolates, Draws Protests

Angry Tibetans throng a Chinese county center and police station to demand the body of the self-immolator.
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Tibetans gather in front of the Chentsa county police station to demand Tamdin Thar's body, June 15, 2012.
Tibetans gather in front of the Chentsa county police station to demand Tamdin Thar's body, June 15, 2012.
Courtesy of a resident

A Tibetan burned himself to death in protest against Chinese rule in Qinghai province Friday, triggering large demonstrations and a security clampdown, local sources said.

Tamdin Thar, from a nomadic family, self-immolated early morning in front of the police station in Chentsa (Jianzha) county in the Huangnan (Malho) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, immediately drawing Chinese security forces who doused the flames and bundled him away, the sources said.

On learning of his death, hundreds of Tibetans in the area thronged the Chentsa county center and the police station to demand his body, sources in the county and in the Tibet Autonomous Region told RFA. As the crowd swelled, the authorities complied and handed over his body, they said.

“Over 300 Tibetans protested at the county center demanding custody of his body" after it was learned that Tamdin Thar, whose age was given as between 40's and 60's, had succumbed to serious burns, one source inside Tibet said.

“We went to the Chentsa county police station and demanded the body. Finally the authorities gave us custody of his body," one protester, a woman, told RFA.

"However, the presence of Chinese security forces is on the increase in this area,” she added.

Another source, identified as Gyatso, a native of Chentsa county, said that monks and others had gathered for funeral prayers.

Thirty-ninth self-immolation

Tamdin Thar is the 39th Tibetan to have burned himself to protest Chinese rule and demand the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama since a wave of self-immolations began in February 2009.

The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said Tamdin Thar belonged to a nomadic family in Lowa village in Chentsathang township. He and his family moved to the county due to the "nomad relocation policy" of the Chinese government, It quoted a source as saying.

Nearly all the self-immolations so far have taken place in the Tibetan-populated provinces in western China—Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu—as Tibetans challenge Chinese policies which they say are discriminatory and have robbed them of their rights.

The first self-immolation incident in Tibet's capital Lhasa was reported last month when two young Tibetan men burned themselves in the heavily guarded city, suggesting that the protest movement to restore Tibetan rights is gaining momentum internally, much to the chagrin of the Chinese authorities who have portrayed the burnings as isolated incidents fueled by exile groups, according to experts.

The Dalai Lama has blamed Beijing's "totalitarian" and "unrealistic" policies for the wave of self-immolations, saying the time has come for the Chinese authorities to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibetan problem.

Chinese authorities however have labeled the self-immolators as terrorists, outcasts, criminals, and mentally ill people, and have blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging the burnings.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.





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