Tibetan Student Perishes in First Self-Immolation in Five Months

Lhamo Tashi in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A 22-year-old Tibetan student has burned himself to death in front of a police station in Gansu province in protest against Chinese rule —the first self-immolation in more than five months among disgruntled Tibetans in China, according to sources.

Lhamo Tashi set himself on fire last week, shouting slogans in front of the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture's police station in Tsoe (Hezuo) county before succumbing to his burns on the spot, the sources said.

Information of Tashi's Sept. 17 fatal burning emerged only at the weekend, apparently due to communication clampdowns usually imposed by Chinese authorities following self-immolation protests.

Tashi's burning protest occurred more than five months since the last reported self-immolation among Tibetans in China on April 15.

It brought the total number of self-immolations to 132 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.

“Tashi self-immolated in front of the office of the police department of Kanlho Prefecture," a local Tibetan told RFA's Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He did it for Tibetan freedom and died in the self immolation," the source said.

Chinese authorities seized Tashi's remains but returned them to his parents a day later, the source said.

"After learning about their son's self-immolation, they rushed to the site and demanded his body but the authorities refused to hand it over to the family. Only the next day, the family members were handed over some remains.”

2008 protest

A second Tibetan source, who confirmed the self-immolation, said Tashi had been studying in Tsoe.

"He was among those who protested against Chinese rule in 2008," the source said, referring to a mass uprising which erupted in Tibet's capital Lhasa in March that year before spreading to other Tibetan-populated areas.

Tashi was detained then and subsequently released for participating in the protest, the source said.

The Central Tibetan Administration, the India-based Tibetan government in exile, says about 220 Tibetans died in the 2008 unrest and nearly 7,000 were detained in the subsequent region-wide crackdown. The Chinese government had put the death toll at 22.

The last reported self-immolation before Tashi's burning occurred in Sichuan province's restive Kardze prefecture on April 15.

Thinley Namgyal, 32, had self-immolated in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture "in protest against Chinese policy and rule [in Tibetan populated areas]," a Tibetan resident had said.

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

Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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