New Tibetan Self-Immolation After One-Month Hiatus

An undated photo of Tenzin Sherab.
Photo courtesy of Free Tibet.

A Tibetan man has burned himself and died after protesting against Chinese rule in the first Tibetan self-immolation in more than a month, according to sources.

Tenzin Sherab, 31, torched himself in Chumarleb, (in Chinese, Qumalai) county in Qinghai province’s Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on Monday.

"He protested against the Chinese policy on Tibet and died on the spot," Jampa Yonten, a monk living in southern India, told RFA's Tibetan Service.

"Chinese police rushed in to take away his body," he said.

A few days before his self-immolation, Tenzin Sherab had complained to his friends about Chinese "discriminatory" policy and "destruction" of Tibetan religion and culture, saying he could no longer tolerate the "repressive measures in Tibet," Jampa Yonten said.

Funeral plans in limbo

Tenzin Sherab's body was returned to his family a day after the self-immolation, but they have been unable to take the body to a monastery in Sershul (in Chinese, Shiqu) county in neighboring Sichuan province to hold the funeral rites, he said.

“The body is currently placed in the home of the deceased. His family had originally planned to take it to Wonpo Monastery in Sershul county for religious services," Jampa Yonten told RFA's Mandarin Service.

"But I was just told that as family members are being visited and interrogated repeatedly by police, they have not been able to take his body to Wonpo Monastery. It’s hard to say if they will be able to [take the body to the monastery].”

The advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said the family members were questioned on why they thought Tenzin Sherab had self-immolated.

Tenzin Sherab was the oldest of five siblings from a village in Chumarleb and, according to exile Tibetan sources quoted by ICT, his nomad family had been resettled there "under the Chinese authorities' policies of settlement, land confiscation, and fencing of pastoral areas inhabited by Tibetans, dramatically curtailing their livelihoods."

Toll rises

The new burning brings to 119 the number of Tibetan self-immolations since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009 to oppose Chinese rule and policies, with many also calling for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

“Tenzin Sherab’s death is a reminder that Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule and oppression remains undimmed after a lifetime of occupation," London-based advocacy group Free Tibet's director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said in a statement.

"Like most people who set themselves alight and most people in Tibet today, he never knew a Tibet that was free. Protests have gone on for decades and will go on until Tibetans are given the power to determine their own future.”

On April 24, two monks set themselves ablaze and died in Sichuan province’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in protests against Chinese rule.

The two monks from the Tagtsang Lhamo Kirti monastery in Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo’ergai) county set themselves alight and died near the monastery.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in Tibet and in Tibetan prefectures in Chinese provinces to check the self-immolations, cutting communication links with outside areas and jailing Tibetans they believe to be linked to the burnings.

More than a dozen have been jailed so far, with some handed jail terms of up to 15 years.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA's Tibetan Service, and Dan Zhen for the the Mandarin Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul, Rigdhen Dolma,and Jennifer Chou. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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