Young Tibetan Monk Sets Himself on Fire to Protest Chinese Rule

Tsering Gyal in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A young Tibetan monk burned himself Monday in protest against Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas and demanding the return of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources said.

The protest came as Tibetans in several counties in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces refused Beijing's orders to fly China’s national flag from their homes amid a campaign of forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state.  

Tsering Gyal, 20, set himself ablaze at 6:30 p.m. in Pema (in Chinese, Banma) county in Qinghai province's Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a source in Tibet said.

The condition of Gyal, from the Akyong monastery in Pema county, is not immediately known as Chinese police put out the fire and took him to a nearby hospital, the Tibetan source said

"He did it for the freedom of six million Tibetans and to highlight the need to re-install His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his golden throne," the source told RFA's Tibetan Service. "He called on the Tibetans to rise up now."

"Not long after he set his body on fire, police arrived and intervened. They put out the fire and rushed him to the local county hospital," the source said.

"The hospital is surrounded by police who have imposed restrictions in the area."

The self-immolation came more than a month after a Tibetan father of two burned himself to death in Sichuan province to protest against Chinese policies in late September.

Shichung, 41, self-immolated near his house in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture after lighting butter lamps in front of a portrait of the Dalai Lama.

Tibetans defy flag orders

Gyal's self-immolation brings to 123 the total number of Tibetans in China who have self-immolated calling for Tibetan freedom and for the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.

The self-immolation occurred after residents of Sichuan province’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and in Dzatoe (Zaduo) county in Qinghai province ’s Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture refused orders to fly China’s national flag from their homes last week.

Previously, Tibetans in another county in Qinghai had refused the order to fly the flag, and residents of a county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) took flags distributed for display and dumped them in a river, prompting a security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check self-immolation protests, arresting and jailing Tibetans whom they accuse of being linked to the burnings. Some have been jailed for up to 15 years.

The authorities have also attempted to pressure local Tibetans to sign an official order that forbids any kind of activities to support or sympathize with self-immolation protests, residents said.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi, Yangdon Demo and Lobsang Choephel for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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