Chinese authorities have cremated a Tibetan man who self-immolated at the weekend to protest Chinese rule and have ordered his family to throw the ashes in a river, depriving them of holding traditional funeral prayers for him, according to sources.
Shichung, 41, a father of two, burned himself to death on Saturday in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Ngaba county in the first Tibetan self-immolation protest in China in more than two months.
Chinese officials, who had seized the body from his family, told them on Sunday that Shichung’s remains had been cremated and that they could collect the ashes, a Tibetan living in exile in India, Tsangyang Gyatso, told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Monday.
“When a group of monks of Jonang Se monastery and relatives of Shichung went to take possession of his remains, they were not allowed to take the remains home but were forced to throw them in the Ngaba river,” he said.
Despite the absence of Shichung’s remains, over 200 monks—including the head lama of Jonang Se—visited his house to conduct prayers over the weekend, he said.
On Monday, a Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan rights group slammed China’s refusal to allow Shichung’s family the comfort of a “culturally appropriate cremation.”
“There is a pattern to the way China has been disposing [of the] bodies of self-immolation protesters,” the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in a statement.
“In many cases, Chinese authorities had given only ashes to family and relatives,” TCHRD said.
'Difficult' under China's rule
In the days before his self-immolation, Shichung had confided to friends that he found it “difficult” to live under Chinese rule, the rights group said, citing contacts in the region.
“They [the Chinese government] won’t let us live,” Shichung told them, TCHRD said.
Though local Tibetans at first took possession of Shichung’s body and brought it to his home immediately after the self-immolation, Chinese security forces quickly arrived on the scene and removed the body by force, Tsangyang Gyatso said.
“The Tibetan crowd tried to block their path, but the crowd gave way when Tibetan elders of the community advised them to avoid any violence,” Tsangyang Gyatso said.
“[The Chinese] forced open the door and took the body away,” Tsangyang Gyatso said, adding, “When Shichung’s wife clung to the body of her dead husband, she was also taken away, but was released on Sept. 29.”
Shichung, who set himself ablaze after attending a prayer function in his home township of Gomang, is survived by his wife and by two daughters, aged 18 and 14. He had formerly been a monk at the nearby Jonang Se monastery and worked as a master tailor, sources said.
Shichung’s burning protest on Saturday brings to 122 the number of Tibetans living in China who have set themselves ablaze calling for Tibetan freedom and for the return to Tibet of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Another six Tibetans have staged self-immolation protests in India and Nepal.
Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check the self-immolations, arresting and jailing Tibetans accused of being linked to the burnings and forbidding activities deemed to have supported the protests.
Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.