A Tibetan man who set himself on fire and died on Thursday in northwestern China’s Gansu province has been identified as a husband and father of three who was opposed to Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas of China, Tibetan sources say.
Tashi Rabten, 33, set himself ablaze on Dec. 8 at about 7:00 p.m. local time on a road leading from the Machu (in Chinese, Maqu) county center to the Machu Bridge, local sources said following the protest.
Detailed information on Rabten’s identity and condition were not immediately available.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA on Friday that witnesses to the protest heard Rabten “call out for freedom for Tibet and for the return of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama.”
“He also called out for the release of the [detained] Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima,” RFA’s source said.
Following the protest, Chinese police and security officers quickly came to Rabten’s home in Mema township's Terchu village to question family members, a second local source said.
“They demanded that his family should say that the self-immolation had no connection with Chinese government policies, and had been carried out instead because of problems at home,” the source said.
Rabten’s wife and a 15-year-old daughter were then taken away by police, he said.
“Some of his other relatives were also detained when they approached authorities to ask for the return of his body,” he said.
Rabten’s family is now being watched at home under police guard, and Chinese armed police are patrolling Terchu village in an atmosphere of “heightened security,” one source said.
Rabten’s protest brings to 146 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 Lobe Socktsang and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.