A Tibetan monk set himself on fire in Sichuan on Tuesday in the second self-immolation protest this week against Beijing’s rule in Tibetan-populated areas of China, sources said.
Kalsang Yeshe, 38, set himself ablaze at around 11:20 a.m. local time outside the Tawu Nyitso monastery in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Tawu (Daofu) county, sources in the region and in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He self-immolated in protest against Chinese policies in Tibet and called for the return of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama to Tibet,” one source said, speaking from exile on condition of anonymity and citing local contacts.
Yeshe staged his protest “in front of the offices of the Chinese Public Security Bureau and work team stationed at the monastery,” the source said.
Engulfed in flames, Kalsang Yeshe collapsed on the ground, and Tibetans nearby rushed to prevent his body being taken away by the police, a local source told RFA.
“But police dispersed the crowd by firing warning shots and took possession of his body,” the source said, adding, “It is unknown whether he is dead or alive.”
Other sources said that Yeshe died at the scene, however.
Yeshe, a resident of Thewa village in Tawu county's Kunor township, had previously studied at the Ganden Jangtse monastery in South India before returning to Tibet, where he began a campaign against illiteracy among the elderly and “taught Buddhism and the Tibetan language,” a local source said.
“He was a well-respected monk," he said.
Yeshe’s burning brings to 136 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009, and is the third to take place this month.
On Monday, a 20-year-old woman named Tsepe in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture died after setting herself ablaze in Ngaba county’s Meruma town.
And on Dec. 16, Sangye Khar, 33, self-immolated in front of a police station in Gansu province’s Sangchu (Xiahe) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
Both died to protest Chinese policies in Tibetan-populated areas, sources told RFA.
Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check self-immolation protests, arresting and jailing Tibetans linked to the burnings.
Some have been imprisoned for up to 15 years.
Reported by Sonam Lhamo, Lobsang Choephel, and Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.