Two young Tibetans set themselves on fire and died in Gansu province on Friday in one of the deadliest weeks of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule, according to Tibetan sources.
In the first incident, Lhamo Tseten, 24, set himself ablaze at 2:30 p.m. near a People’s Armed Police post in Amchok township, Sangchu county, in the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
The other self-immolation occurred almost six hours later when Tsepak Kyab, 21, burned to death on the main street of Sangkhok township, also in Sangchu, a Tibetan living in India told RFA's Tibetan service.
The past week saw five protest burnings in Gansu and brings to 60 the total number of self-immolations challenging Beijing’s rule since February 2009.
Lhamo Tseten torched himself after lunch with his friends in Amchok township.
“He was dining at a restaurant with friends. Then he slowly walked out, and, amid shouts from the crowd, ran into the street engulfed in flames,” one witness said, according to Tibetan websites.
“He called out for freedom for Tibet and the return of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama before he fell to the ground. Still, he clasped his hands together and continued to shout slogans,” the witness said.
Kept away by a crowd of angry Tibetans, Chinese security personnel watched from a distance and did not intervene, sources said.
“When the fire died out, Lhamo Tseten’s body was covered in yellow cloth and taken to his hometown,” one source said, adding, “Meanwhile, area residents are converging on Amchok township in cars and on motorbikes.”
Lhamo Tseten in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.
Tsepak Kyab, 21, also shouted anti-Beijing slogans as he self-immolated.
"As he burned, he shouted slogans calling for the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and for the release of political prisoners, including the Panchen Lama," Sangkhok Thubten said, citing sources in the region.
The Panchen Lama, Tibet's second-highest religious figure, was detained by Chinese authorities as a child in 1995 after being named to his position by the Dalai Lama, and another child--widely regarded by Tibetans as a Chinese puppet--was installed in his place.
"Since it was late in the evening, no Chinese police were present at the site" of Tsepak Kyab's protest, Thubten said.
"When Chinese officials finally arrived, local Tibetans guarded Tsepak Kyab's remains and wouldn't let the officials touch them."
"His body was then taken to his house, and prayers are being said for him," Thubten said.
Tsepak Kyab, who came from Rumang Camp No. 2 in Sangkhok and was also called Tsepa, is survived by his wife, Dorje Drolma, his mother Lumo Jam, and a brother, Tashi Dhondup.
Lhamo Tseten is survived by his father Namchuk Tsering, 49, his mother Zongdue Kyi, 50, his wife Tsering, and their two-year-old daughter Nyimo Kyi, sources said.
A Tibetan monk in the area confirmed the two self-immolations in a call to RFA's Tibetan service, and said before hanging up the phone that he had been asked to join in prayers for the two men.Protests 'intensifying'
The London-based advocacy group Free Tibet reported on Friday that Internet service to the areas was cut following the protests and that “large numbers” of Chinese security personnel are pouring into the area from nearby Bora township, also the scene of recent unrest.
“Tibetans continue to demonstrate their outright rejection of Chinese rule by setting themselves on fire in front of Chinese government buildings,” Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement.
The self-immolations are expected to continue until Tibetans are "granted the freedom they demand,” Brigden said.Reported by Guru Choegyi and Lumbum for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul and Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.