Tibetan Man Dies in Self-Immolation Protest in Kardze

Thinley Namgyal in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A Tibetan man burned himself to death Tuesday in Sichuan province's restive Kardze prefecture to protest Chinese rule, triggering a security alert and a clampdown on information flow, according to sources.

Thinley Namgyal, 32, self-immolated at noon in Khangsar township in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the sources said.

“Since the fire was so intense, it didn’t take very long for his death," a local resident told RFA's Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He self-immolated in protest against Chinese policy and rule [in Tibetan populated areas]," another Tibetan resident said, also speaking anonymously.

Tibetans who witnessed the burning protest immediately took Namgyal's body to a nearby monastery for prayers before Chinese police could arrive at the scene, the resident said.

The Gonthal monastery later handed over the body to the family of Namgyal, who left behind a mother and two older brothers.

Communication links cut off

Chinese authorities immediately stepped up security in the area and cut off mobile phone and other communication links, local residents said.

“Now it is very difficult to reach anyone in the Tawu area," another resident said.

In Tawu county in July last year, Chinese forces opened fire on Tibetans and used tear gas to disperse about 1,000 monks and nuns who had gathered to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday, injuring at least eight.

Namgyal's burning was the 131st Tibetan self-immolation in China since the fiery protests began in 2009 challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan areas and calling for the return from exile of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

On March 29, a 31-year-old Tibetan nun set herself on fire near the Ba Choede monastery in Bathang (Batang) county, also in Kardze prefecture.

Following her protest, Chinese police rushed to Ba Choede and imposed “various restrictions” in the area, disrupting communication links and detaining several nuns who were close to her, sources had said.

“Tibetans continue to set themselves alight in Tibet because China continues to use force to deny them their basic human rights and their fundamental right to determine their own future as a nation," London-based advocacy group Free Tibet's director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said in a statement.


Noting that China has this week postponed a much-trumpeted human rights dialogue with Britain, she said "China may try to hold itself unaccountable for human rights abuses but those abuses lie behind every self-immolation."

"The protests and deaths of Thinley Namgyal and the other Tibetans who have taken this step are a reminder to the global community that China must be held accountable.”

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.

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


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