A town in southwestern Sichuan province which has become the focus of Tibetan self-immolation protests was at a near standstill as people mourned the death of one of two teenagers who set themselves alight in protest against Chinese rule, sources said Monday.
Residents of Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) shut down their shops and restaurants for three days from Saturday following the self-immolation on Friday of Khaying, 18, and Choephel, 19, both from Kirti monastery under siege by Chinese authorities.
Khaying died on Saturday while Choephel is said to be in serious condition, the sources said, clarifying initial reports last week that that Choephel had succumbed to serious burns on his body.
They were the latest among seven Tibetans who have set themselves alight this year in a bid to protest against Chinese rule in Tibetan populated areas and to highlight human rights abuses allegedly committed by Chinese security forces.
Following Khaying's death, "all the Tibetan shops and restaurants in Ngaba area closed their shutters and paid respect to the protesters," a Tibetan from Ngaba, who chose to remain anonymous, told RFA.
Most of the Ngaba residents also visited temples and monasteries "to pray for the deceased soul and the prayers continued for three days," said Kanyag Tsering, a monk at Kirti's sister monastery in Dharamsala in northern India.
Body request denied
Tsering also said that Chinese authorities refused to give the body of Khaying to his family members, cremating him and only providing the ashes to them.
"The relatives demanded his body to conduct the death rituals but the authorities denied the request," the Tibetan who spoke to RFA said.
Khaying’s family was allowed to invite only five monks to perform the last rites.
"Around 10 Chinese [security officials] were put on guard outside his house. Friends and supporters who wanted to reach the family of Khaying to pay their condolences were barred from visiting the family," Tsering said.
On Monday, Kirti monastery monks wanted to approach Khaying's family to offer prayers but "the elders from their clan requested the monks not go to Khaying’s house because the Chinese had threatened to create problems for the family," Tsering said.
"So, the monks prayed from afar."
Khaying had said while receiving treatment in hospital that he wanted to sacrifice his life "for the cause of Tibet" and called on the people of Ngaba "not to worry about his death," Tsering said.
"Similarly, Choephel, who is said to be in serious condition, had also mentioned about the sacrifices made by Tibetan monks for the cause of Tibet to several people a few days before his self-immolation.
"He also talked about the intolerable situation in Ngaba," Tsering said
Recent self-immolations by desperate Tibetan monks from Ngaba and elsewhere in Tibetan regions of Sichuan signal an alarming trend and highlight unrelenting Chinese actions to curb religious rights, according to human rights groups.
On Oct. 3, a Tibetan monk from Kirti set himself on fire while three other monks from the same monastery set themselves ablaze earlier in a trend that began in March this year and that led to a security crackdown on the monastery.
According to Free Tibet, only one monk in Tibet was known to have set fire to himself before this year.
International rights groups have called on Beijing to review its Tibetan policies to halt the worrying trend of self-immolation, which experts say is the worst form of killing and goes against all the principles of Tibetan Buddhism.
Reported by Righden Dolma and Chakmo Tso for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Righden Dolma. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.