Nearly 200 Tibetan residents of Sichuan’s Kardze county were taken into custody following the self-immolation at the weekend of Pema Gyaltsen, a Tibetan farmer, in the county’s main town, sources in the region say.
Meanwhile, details of Gyaltsen’s condition remain unclear, with some sources reporting he is now lying in critical condition in a hospital in Kardze instead of in the provincial capital Chengdu, where his family had wanted him taken.
Gyaltsen, a native of Nyagrong (in Chinese, Xinlong) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, set himself ablaze in Kardze town at around 4:00 p.m. on March 18, sources told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Pema Gyaltsen, who is from Nyagrong, staged his fiery protest at a crossroads in Kardze town and was taken away by police,” one local source said, with another saying the protest took place near the town’s bus station.
Police quickly dispersed Tibetan onlookers, taking nearly 200 into custody, one source outside the region said, citing contacts in Kardze.
“Nearly 200 Tibetans who attempted to support Gyaltsen in his protest by raising cries in solidarity were taken away,” the source said, adding, “Police also confiscated the mobile phones of many of those who were detained.”
The source refuted earlier reports that Gyaltsen had been taken to a hospital in the provincial capital for treatment.
“His family asked the authorities to allow them to take him to Chengdu, but they refused because of concerns over custody issues,” the source said.
“He was alive on March 19, when he was taken to the hospital in Kardze, but he was reported to be in critical condition,” the source said.
Gyaltsen’s protest brings to 147 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009.
Most protests feature 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, Dawa Dolma, Sangye Dorjee, and Pema Ngodup for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.