Police in western China’s Sichuan province have detained a Tibetan monk suspected of spreading news about recent self-immolation protests to outside contacts, a Tibetan source says.
Gonpo, aged about 43 and a monk in the Oephung monastery of Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture’s Nyagrong (Xinlong) county, was taken into custody on May 4 at around 5:00 p.m., an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He was taken away on suspicion of disseminating information [on local protests] to outside contacts,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“There has been no word about his condition or place of detention since he was taken away,” the source added.
Gonpo’s parents and three brothers still live in Nyagrong, RFA’s source said, adding that the detained monk is well-known known for his “[Tibetan] patriotism and dedication.”
No details were immediately available regarding the information that Gonpo is believed to have conveyed outside the area, but police in Tibetan areas of China routinely clamp down on internet and telephone communications following self-immolations and other protests challenging rule by Beijing.
Two burn in protests
In March and April, two self-immolations were carried out by Nyagrong residents who had traveled to Kardze town—county seat of the prefecture’s Kardze county—to stage their protests, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
On April 15, Nyagrong resident Wangchuk Tseten, a 39-year-old father of four, set himself ablaze in Kardze town after drinking kerosene and pouring it over his body, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
As he burned, he called out for the long life of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the source said, adding, “His body was completely engulfed in flames, so it seems there is little chance that he survived.”
Tseten’s protest brought to 148 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009. Of these, 125 are known to have died.
The previous protest was on March 18, when a 24-year-old Tibetan farmer named Pema Gyaltsen, also from Nyagrong, set himself on fire in Kardze. His fate remains unclear.
The total number of self-immolations by Tibetans rose on May 2 to 149 when 16-year-old student Chagdor Kyab set himself ablaze near Bora monastery in Gansu province’s Gannan (Kanlho) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a local source told RFA.
Chinese authorities immediately imposed tight restrictions in the area, making it difficult to obtain further information.
Reported by Pema Ngodup for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.