A Tibetan man who set himself on fire and died on Saturday in western China’s Sichuan province has been identified as a husband and former Kirti monastery monk who opposed Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas of China, Tibetan exile sources say.
Konpe, aged about 30, set himself ablaze at around 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 23 on the main road of Ngaba town, a site of numerous self-immolations and other protests calling for Tibetan freedom, a Tibetan monk living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“While Konpe was burning, police and other people arrived and extinguished the fire and took him to Barkham hospital, reaching there around 10:00 p.m.,” Lobsang Yeshe, spokesman for the India branch of Kirti monastery, said, referring to a hospital in a neighboring county.
“However, he died at about 5:00 p.m. on Dec. 24,” Yeshe said, citing contacts in Ngaba.
Detailed information on Konpe’s identity and condition were briefly delayed owing to a communications clampdown imposed by Chinese authorities in the area.
However, a video obtained on Saturday by RFA and circulating widely on social media shows a person engulfed in flames and walking down the street, while a woman nearby can be heard calling out in tears to exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
“Afterwards, Chinese authorities sent a message to Konpe’s family and relatives, telling them he had died and saying they should come to the hospital to collect his remains,” Yeshe said, adding that restaurants and shops in Ngaba remained closed on Dec. 24 and 25 out of sympathy for Konpe’s family.
Death rituals performed
Family members are now performing death rituals for Konpe, a second source in Dharamsala, India, told RFA on Dec. 25.
“But Konpe’s father has now been detained by authorities in Barkham, who tell him that tens of thousands of yuan [10,000 yuan = U.S. $1,530] were spent on Konpe’s medical treatment before he died,” the source, Kirti monastery monk Kanyag Tsering said.
Konpe, a former resident of the Chukle Gongma pastoral community in Ngaba county’s Cha village, married Kelsang Lhamo, a daughter of the Rawa family in Meuruma Settlement No. 2, about a year ago and had joined her family there, Tsering said.
“His father’s name is Gyakyab and his mother’s name is Trindok,” Tsering said.
“He has two brothers and three sisters. One brother is a Kirti monk. Konpe himself joined the monastery as a young child, but later disrobed,” Tsering said.
Konpe’s protest brings to 152 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 Sangye Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Benpa Topgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.