Tibetan Nun Sets Herself Ablaze in New Self-Immolation Protest

Assembly of monks at Nyatso monastery, June 10, 2013.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A Tibetan nun set herself ablaze on Tuesday during a large religious gathering in China’s Sichuan province in protest against Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, sources said.

The woman, who has not been identified, self-immolated near Nyatso monastery in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county, which is also close to a police facility, a Tibetan living in Nepal told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The area has now been clamped down on by a huge security force,” the source said, citing contacts in the region.

The woman’s condition is not known, though “it is confirmed that she was moved to a hospital,” he said.

The burning brings to 120 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans challenging Chinese rule since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.

The nun set herself ablaze at about 5:00 p.m. local time “to protest China’s harsh policy” in Tibetan-populated areas, Yama Tsering, a monk living in southern India, told RFA’s Mandarin Service on Tuesday.

“The nun was immediately taken to the Kangding county hospital,” Tsering said, citing local sources.

“After the protest, authorities cut off all phone and Internet connections to the area, and there is no way now to get more detailed information about the nun’s name or age, or what slogans she may have shouted before she set herself on fire,” he said.

Chinese authorities are now restricting the movements of Tibetans living in the area, he added.

Calls seeking comment from Tawu county police and Nyatso monastery rang unanswered Tuesday.

Large religious gathering

RFA map showing Tawu county in Sichuan province.
RFA map showing Tawu county in Sichuan province.

The nun’s self-immolation took place a day after the beginning of Jang Gunchoe, an annual gathering of monks at the Nyatso monastery, another source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“It began on June 10, with over 3,000 monks from 50 monasteries in the Kham area participating in Buddhist debates and other activities for ten days,” Tashi, an India-based Tibetan monk, said.

Kham  is one of the three historical regions of Tibet and is divided today between western Sichuan and the eastern part of what is now the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Tuesday’s self-immolation protest comes less than a month after the burning death of Tenzin Sherab, 31, who set himself ablaze in Chumarleb (Qumalai) county in Qinghai’s Yulshul (Yushu) prefecture on May 27.

A few days before his protest, Sherab had complained to friends about China’s “discriminatory” policies and “destruction” of Tibetan religion and culture, saying he could no longer tolerate Beijing’s “repressive measures in Tibet,” Jampa Yonten, a monk living in southern India, had said.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in Tibet and in the Tibetan prefectures of Chinese provinces to check the self-immolations, cutting communication links with outside areas and jailing Tibetans they believe to be linked to the burnings.

More than a dozen have been jailed so far, with some handed jail terms of up to 15 years.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi and Kunzang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service and by Dan Zhen for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Feng Xiaoming. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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