Four Tibetans Self-Immolate

The burnings take place as Chinese authorities violently suppress a Tibetan student demonstration.
Tibetan medical students protesting in Chabcha county in Qinghai, Nov 26, 2012.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. EST on 11-26-2012

Four more Tibetans, including a nun, have self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule, sources said Monday as armed police violently broke up a mass Tibetan student demonstration over an official booklet which ridiculed the wave of burning protests as acts of "stupidity."

Two of the self-immolations occurred in Gansu province and one took place in Sichuan province on Monday while the fourth—involving a 17-year-old nun who died—was reported on Sunday in Qinghai province, sources inside Tibet said.

The four incidents in Tibetan-populated areas bring the total number of burnings to 85 so far as Tibetans step up the self-immolation protests to highlight opposition to Chinese rule and demand the return of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is living in exile in India.

The student protests occurred at a medical school in Chabcha (in Chinese, Gonghe) county in the Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai in response to the release of an official booklet which ridiculed the Tibetan language as irrelevant, and condemned the self-immolations, local residents said.

At least 20 students from the Tsolho Medical Institute were admitted to hospital after being beaten by armed Chinese police who had surrounded and taken control of the school, the local residents told Tibetan exile sources.

"The students of Tsolho Medical Institute protested against the distribution of a book condemning the study of Tibetan language as devoid of relevance and the self-immolations as acts of stupidity," one exile source told RFA's Tibetan service.

Tsolho views

The book, entitled 10 Real Views of Tsolho Area, reflected the Tsolho local government's perception of the Tibetan language and the burning protests, according to the sources.

"The books were distributed in the area's schools. So the medical students of Tsolho Medical Institute burned all the books and called for equality among nationalities and freedom to study the Tibetan language," the source said. "They called for an investigation into this issue and respect for justice."

"The armed police and paramilitary cracked down on the students and several student protesters were seriously injured," the source added.

Earlier this month, several thousand Tibetan students took to the streets in Qinghai province demanding greater rights.

The students shouted slogans calling for "equality of nationalities and freedom of languages" and demanding the return of the Dalai Lama.

The demonstrators were from the Malho Teacher Training College and the Malho Vocational Institute in Rongwo township, the capital of Rebgong county in the Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where self-immolations have intensified in recent weeks, as well as the Qinghai Nationalities University in Qinghai's provincial capital Xining.

New burnings

The student protests on Monday came as four new self-immolations brought to 21 the total number of burnings this month alone.

Teenage nun Sangay Dolmas, from the Mindrol Thagyal Ling monastery, set herself ablaze and died Sunday in the Dokarmo subdivision in Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in Malho prefecture, sources said.

On Monday, Kunchok Tsering, 18, self-immolated and died in Achok in Gansu province's Sangchu (Xiahe) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture while ex-monk Wang Gyal, 20, torched himself in Serthar (Seda) county in Sichuan province's Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, sources from inside Tibet said.

Chinese police bundled Wang Gyal away from the scene soon after he set himself on fire, the sources said.

"No details are available about his condition since the Chinese imposed stringent restrictions in the area and the lines of communication are cut off," one source told RFA.

'Discriminatory' policies

Tibetan groups say self-immolation protests have intensified recently despite tighter security measures because of Beijing's "discriminatory" policies and a clampdown on monasteries.

"The Tibetans who are self-immolating—now in more rapid succession—have clearly not been dissuaded by the security buildup or other means of official intimidation," Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said at the weekend.

"Nonetheless, the authorities seem to be betting that further oppression will cower or exhaust the will of future self-immolators," she said. "But unless and until there is some initiative that can break through the cycle of repression and protest, I think we all acknowledge that more Tibetans will be prepared to take the agonizing action of self-immolation."

"And that is a terrible and unacceptable calculation,” she said.

Reported by RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Gonpo Tsering was 45 years old.


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