A Tibetan monk set himself ablaze and died on Sunday in western China’s Sichuan province in a challenge to Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, Tibetan sources said.
The protest brings to 151 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of burnings began in 2009.
Tenga, aged 63 and a monk at a monastery in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county, set himself alight on Sunday, Nov. 26, and died of his burns, a Tibetan living in exile in South India told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing sources in Kardze.
While burning, Tenga called out for freedom for Tibet, a second source said, speaking on condition of anonymity from inside Tibet.
“Security officers and armed police quickly arrived at the scene and took his body away,” the source said.
“Afterward, there was a heavy security clampdown in the area, with family members in Dando village placed under watch by Chinese police.”
“With police now stationed around his house, and phone calls not getting through, it is difficult to assess the current situation,” he said.
“Police have not returned [Tenga’s] body to his family yet,” a third source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
News of Tenga’s fiery protest on Sunday was briefly delayed in reaching outside media contacts due to communications clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities in the Kardze area.
Telephone and online social media connections are now blocked in the area where the incident occurred, RFA’s source in South India said, adding that a phone call he had made to Kardze seeking information ended abruptly when the phone line was cut.
“But what we know for sure is that he burned himself for the Tibetan cause, and that he demanded freedom for Tibet,” he said.
The second of four siblings in his family, Tenga had worked as a volunteer teacher before joining the Kardze monastery, another local source said.
“He was very popular in several villages in his hometown, where he was respectfully called ‘Teacher’ by the villagers,” the source said.
A total of 151 people have now set themselves ablaze in Tibet and Tibetan-populated counties in western China. Their protests have featured demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.
Reported by Lhuboom, Pema Ngodup, Dawa Dolma, and Lobsang Choephel for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.