Chinese authorities in Qinghai province on Friday blocked funeral plans for a Tibetan protester set for the next day, insisting that the ceremony be held earlier than scheduled and restricting participation by local Tibetans, according to an exile source with contacts in the region.
Photography and videotaping of the event were also forbidden, apparently in a bid to stop news of the event from spreading, the source said.
Tenzin Khedup, 24, was one of two young Tibetans who self-immolated on June 20 in Dzatoe township, Tridu county, in Qinghai’s Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) prefecture in a protest against Chinese rule in Tibetan areas.
His companion, Ngawang Norphel, 22, survived the fiery protest with severe burns and was taken to hospital in the provincial capital Xining for treatment.
The monks of Zikar monastery and local Tibetans had planned a large funeral for Tenzin Khedup on June 23, but the Chinese authorities intervened at around 11:00 p.m. the night before,” India-based monk and Dzatoe native Lobsang Sangay said, citing sources in the region.
Authorities demanded that Khedup’s funeral be held at 5:00 a.m. local time and not during daylight hours, apparently to prevent large crowds from gathering, Sangay said.
“The monks were told that if they did not comply with this official directive, security forces would take possession of the body,” Sangay said.
“Finally, they had to agree to conduct the funeral ceremony in the early hours of June 23.”
Police deployed at monastery
Though authorities said at first that only 25 monks would be allowed to attend, monastery managers insisted on the participation of more of the monks, and finally all of the monks of Zikar monastery took part, Sangay said.
“However, they were not allowed to take photos or videos of the event,” he said.
Recent visitors to Zikar monastery have estimated the number of resident monks at about 500.
“No other Tibetans were allowed to go to the monastery, and this restriction was enforced by over 700 police who were deployed around the monastery and in Dzatoe town,” Sangay said, adding that the funeral itself was closely monitored by police.
Khedup’s and Norphel’s fiery protest brings to 41 the number of Tibetans who have set fire to themselves in protest against Chinese rule since the current wave of burnings began in February 2009.
Nearly all of the self-immolations have taken place in Tibetan-populated provinces in western China as Tibetans challenge Chinese policies which they say have robbed them of their rights.
The first self-immolation protest in Tibet’s capital Lhasa was reported last month when two young Tibetan men set themselves ablaze in a central square in the heavily guarded city.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma and Pema Ngodup for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.