Tibetan Protester Dies of His Burns

Tsering Gyal in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A young Tibetan monk who set himself ablaze on Monday in a challenge to Chinese rule has died on his way to a hospital in Xining, capital city of northwestern China’s Qinghai province, sources said.

Tsering Gyal, 20, who self-immolated in Pema (in Chinese, Banma) county in Qinghai’s Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, “succumbed to his injuries and died at around 11:00 p.m. local time,” a Tibetan resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.

“He died on the way to Xining when the county hospital could not treat him,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Before he died, he stated that he was sacrificing his body for the sake of the unity of Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet, and said it was his hope that Tibetans can remain united and protect and uphold the Tibetan language,” the source said.

Gyal’s body was brought back at around midnight to Akyong monastery, where hundreds of monks from Akyong and from other monasteries nearby had gathered to conduct funeral prayers, he said.

Gyal had set himself on fire near a concrete lotus flower of eight petals in the middle of the Pema county center and then walked about ten steps before he fell to the ground, the source said, adding, “People present at the site heard him call out about ten times for the long life of [exiled Tibetan spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama."

Hundreds of Chinese paramilitary police have now been deployed at the Pema county center and are restricting movements on the bridge and main gate leading to the town, sources said.

Burning protests continue

Gyal’s self-immolation brings to 123 the total number of Tibetans in China who have set themselves on fire calling for Tibetan freedom and for the return of the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.

The protest occurred after residents of Sichuan province’s Kardze (Ganzi) county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and in Dzatoe (Zaduo) county in Qinghai province’s Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture refused orders to fly China’s national flag from their homes last week.

Previously, Tibetans in another county in Qinghai had refused orders to fly the flag, and residents of a county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) took flags distributed for display and dumped them in a river, prompting a security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.

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

In late September, Shichung, a 41-year-old Tibetan father of two, burned himself to death in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) county in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture after lighting butter lamps in front of a portrait of the Dalai Lama.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check the 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 Yangdon Demo and Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney


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