Tibetan Self-Immolation Protesters Die of Their Burns

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

Two Tibetan monks who set themselves on fire last week in separate protests against Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas of China have died of their burns, according to sources in the region and in exile on Tuesday .

Lobsang Palden, 20, from Kirti monastery in Sichuan province’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, died on Friday in a Chinese military hospital after self-immolating in the prefecture’s Ngaba county on March 16, India-based Tibetan monk Kanyak Tsering told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“For five days, his condition remained unknown,” Tsering said, citing local sources.

“Later, it was learned that he died on March 21 in a military hospital in Barkham [Ma’erkang] county.”

“His family members went to Barkham to get his body, but they were given only some remains, and we are not even sure that the remains were Lobsang Palden’s,” Tsering said.

Palden set himself ablaze on Ngaba county’s main road, called “Heroes’ Street” by local Tibetans, to mark the anniversary of a March 16, 2008 crackdown in which Chinese police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing at least 10.

Shouting protest slogans, he then took several steps before Chinese security forces rushed to the scene and put out the flames, sources said.

“Ngaba police intervened soon after he set himself on fire, doused the flames, put him in a pickup truck, and drove him away in the midst of a crowd of Tibetans who were booing them,” Tsering told RFA.

'He could not be saved'

In the other protest, a monk from Qinghai province’s Tsekhog  (Zeku) county died shortly after self-immolating on a path circling the local Sonag monastery, also called Shador, sources said.

“Jigme Tenzin, 29, who self-immolated on March 16, 2014, died on the same day,” an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.

Tenzin, who was not identified by name in early reports, was taken into the monastery by fellow monks after he set himself on fire,  the source said.

“However, he could not be saved, and he succumbed to his injuries soon afterward.”

The monks then cremated Tenzin’s remains before police could arrive, he said.

“When the authorities arrived, they clamped down on the monastery and cut off all lines of communication, including the Internet,” he said, adding that devotees coming from outside areas to pray at the monastery were also prevented from entering.

Detained monks 'severely beaten'

London-based Free Tibet said in a statement Tuesday that Chinese police had detained 14 Shador monastery monks following the self-immolation.

“Monks were severely beaten in custody,” Free Tibet said, adding that 11 of the monks remain detained..

Also detained was Jigme Tenzin’s father, who had appealed to Chinese authorities not to punish the monastery, Free Tibet said.

All contact between the monastery and the local community is now forbidden, and a political re-education campaign has been imposed on the monastery’s monks, Free Tibet said.

“China’s response to Tibetan protest is always the further abuse of Tibetans’ human rights,” Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said Tuesday, calling for the release of those detained, including Jigme Tenzin’s father.

“China must learn that its relentless curbs on religious freedom in Tibet are as counterproductive as they are unjustifiable,” Byrne-Rosengren said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

A total of 129 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi  for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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