Clash Averted After Self-Immolation

Tibetan monk is given a 'water burial' instead of a traditional cremation.

An undated photo of Lobsang Lozin.
Courtesy of Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshi

Religious officials mediated between Chinese security forces and local Tibetans to avert a confrontation after the self-immolation death on Tuesday of a teenage monk in protest against Chinese rule in Sichuan province, exile sources said Wednesday.

The security forces and Tibetans agreed to withdraw from a bridge leading to the monastery outside which 18-year-old Lobsang Lozin self-immolated in Barkham (in Chinese, Ma’erkang) county in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

“After yesterday’s incident, local Tibetans gathered on the Tsodun bridge to stop Chinese police from advancing toward the monastery, thus raising fear of a confrontation,” India-based monk Lobsang Yeshi, citing sources in the region, told RFA on Wednesday.

But Gyalrong Tsodun Kirti monastery management personnel “stepped in and promised the Chinese police that they would cooperate to keep the situation under control and asked the police to go back and the locals to return home,” he said.

A clash was averted when the Tibetans and Chinese security forces withdrew following the monastery management personnel's promises, Lobsang Yeshi said.

'Water burial'

Amid the tensions, Tibetans had to provide a water burial, instead of a traditional cremation, for Lobsang Lozin.

Senior monks placed his body in a nearby river to be carried downstream, a Tibetan source in exile said.

The monastery’s monks had initially intended to conduct a traditional cremation ceremony for the teenager.

“But things did not work out as planned, so the monks and local residents last night carried his body to a local burial site for water burial,” Yeshi said.

While self-immolating, Lobsang Lozin—who was described as “one of the top students in his class”—walked a short distance toward local government offices and shouted slogans before succumbing to his burns, exiled monks had said.

Chinese policies blamed

Tuesday’s fiery protest brings to 44 the number of self-immolations reported since February 2009 as Tibetans challenge Chinese policies and rule in Tibetan areas.

In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Friday, Tibet’s exile prime minister Lobsang Sangay blamed the self-immolations on “the Chinese government’s failed policies for Tibet:  policies founded on political oppression, social marginalization, cultural assimilation, and environmental destruction.”

“Denied the right to less extreme forms of protest, Tibetans are setting fire to themselves as political action,” Sangay said.

Chinese authorities however have labeled the self-immolators as terrorists, outcasts, criminals, and mentally ill people, and have blamed Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for encouraging the burnings.

Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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