Chinese authorities in a restive Tibetan county in Sichuan are harassing the mother and elder brother of a man who burned himself to death to protest Beijing’s rule, summoning them to county offices for interrogation and pressuring the mother to deny her son’s protest was political in nature, according to exile sources.
At the same time, police have repeatedly questioned neighbors of the dead protester Thinley Namgyal, 32, and are seeking monks believed to have helped family members take charge of his remains, sources said.
Following Namgyal’s self-immolation on April 15 in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county’s Khangsar township, his mother Pel Lha was called in to county offices to be questioned and photographed, India-based Norbu Tsering told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“But she did not allow the authorities to take her photo,” Tsering said, citing local sources.
“When she was asked why her son had set himself on fire, she told them he had done it for the cause of the Tibetan nation, and they suggested she give them some other explanation.”
“They [even] offered her financial compensation if she would agree with an account of his motivation provided by the authorities,” he said.
Chinese authorities had stepped up security following the self-immolation protest, surrounding Namgyal’s native Ganub Riyong village with armed police and cutting off mobile phone and other communication links, sources said.
Namgyal’s elder brother Jamyang Tsephel, called in for questioning, also declared that Namgyal had died “for the cause of Tibetan freedom,” exile source Lobsang Jinpa told RFA.
“Namgyal’s neighbors were also repeatedly questioned about the incident,” he said.
Also questioned were the families of monks belonging to nearby Gongthal monastery who had escaped after being sought by police for their suspected role in abetting the burning, Jinpa said.
Tulku Jigme Tenzin, the monastery’s senior monk, was also “summoned and interrogated” by Tawu county officials, Tsering said.
“”The officials warned Tulku Jigme Tenzin to ‘be more careful’ in future.”
Rikchung, a relative suspected of taking photos of Namgyal’s self-immolation, was meanwhile released two days after being detained by police, Tsering said.
“I have no information about what happened to him while he was in custody,” Tsering said.
Rikchung was believed by authorities to have photographed and circulated gruesome images of Namgyal engulfed in flames, distributing them to media outlets and posting them on the Internet, Tsering said.
He had also helped to take charge of Namgyal’s remains, which were taken first to Gongthal monastery for prayers and then returned to his family, he said.
Pressured by county officials to “get rid of the body as quickly as possible,” family members cremated the remains on April 17, two days after Namgyal’s protest, Jinpa added.
Namgyal’s burning protest was the 131st Tibetan self-immolation in China since the fiery protests began in 2009 challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan areas and calling for the return from exile of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
Reported by Sonam Wangdu for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.