Two Tibetan Monks Self-Immolate on Crackdown Anniversary

Lobsang Palden in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Kanyak Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi.

Updated at 4:40 p.m. ET on 2014-03-16

Two Tibetan monks set themselves on fire Sunday on the sixth anniversary of a deadly crackdown by Chinese authorities on Tibetans that had sparked an unending spate of self-immolation protests against Beijing's rule, according to exile sources.

Lobsang Palden, 20, from the restive Kirti monastery in Sichuan province's Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, self-immolated in Ngaba county while another monk, whose name was not immediately available, set himself on fire in Tsekhog (Zeku) county in Qinghai province's Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the sources said.

Palden self-immolated on the main road in Ngaba county, which was renamed in 2012 by Tibetans as "Heroes Street" after it became a regular venue for burning protests against Chinese rule, according to Tibetan exile monks Kanyak Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi, based in India's northern hill town Dharamsala.

The monks, citing local contacts, said Palden self-immolated to protest "against the violent crackdown on the Tibetans" on March 16, 2008 in Ngaba when Chinese police opened fire on a crowd of Tibetans, killing at least 10, including one monk.

The crackdown had agitated Tibetans in the area and sparked a spree of burning protests, the number of which reached 129 on Sunday, sources said.

Tibetans have been marking the Ngaba crackdown anniversary by staging self-immolation protests over the last four years.

Protest slogans

Palden shouted protest slogans as he walked while he was on fire before Chinese security forces rushed to the scene and doused the flames and took him away, Tsering and Yeshi said.

"When [Palden] set himself on fire and walked several steps shouting slogans, several police arrived, put out the flames, forced him into a small vehicle, and took him away," Tsering and Yeshi said in a statement to RFA's Tibetan Service.

Details such as his condition and where he was taken were not immediately available.

Palden left behind a written and voice message calling for unity among Tibetans and sincerity in whatever they strive to achieve, Tsering and Yeshi said. "He also thanked his mother and relatives for their love and affection," they said.

All Tibetan-owned restaurants and shops in Ngaba were closed Sunday "to express solidarity with the self-immolator," they said.

"There is a huge presence of both armed and unarmed police forces in Ngaba town," Tsering and Yeshi said.

Self-immolation in Qinghai

In the other self-immolation on Sunday, a monk set himself on fire outside the Sonag monastery in Tsekhog county's Jador township, exile sources said.

His name and other details of the incident are not available.

"The local authorities immediately blocked the Internet, mobile phone, and [micro-messaging service] WeChat communications" immediately after the burning protest, a Tibetan exile source based in Europe told RFA's Mandarin Service.

A Tibetan in the area told RFA's Tibetan Service that after the self-immolation, he was not allowed to enter the Sonag monastery by Chinese security forces who he said had surrounded the institution.

Sunday's burnings brings the number of self-immolations this year to four.

Two fatal self-immolations occurred last month—one in Ngaba and the other in Tsekhog.

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

Reported by Lumbum Tashi and Yangdon Demo for RFA's Tibetan Service and Dan Zhen for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Ping Chen. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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