Security Tightened in Pema County Following Tibetan Burning Protest

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Tsering Gyal in an undated photo.
Tsering Gyal in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Chinese authorities have tightened security measures in a Tibetan-populated county in China’s northwestern Qinghai province in the wake of the latest self-immolation protest by a Tibetan challenging Beijing’s rule, a local resident says.

Tsering Gyal, a 20-year-old Buddhist monk, set himself ablaze on Nov. 11 in Pema (in Chinese, Banma) county in the Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. He died the next day after calling for freedom for Tibetans and an end to Chinese rule, sources said.

Now, armed police are stopping and searching Tibetan-operated vehicles on major roads leading to and from the county, an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.

“Groups of 15 Chinese armed paramilitary police are stationed at every turn of the road in the county, and are thoroughly searching Tibetan travelers,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The police at one checkpoint then contact police at the next checkpoint to let them know the Tibetans are coming their way, in order to ‘hand them over,’” the source said, adding that Internet service to the area has now been disconnected and local Tibetans are being restricted in their movements, with some searched at gunpoint.

Though many Tibetans had wanted to visit Gyal’s family home to offer their condolences following his fatal protest, Chinese authorities “did not allow” this, he said.

Call for Tibetan unity

Gyal died en route to a hospital in Qinghai’s capital city Xining after a local county hospital found it was unable to treat him, a local source told RFA.

“Before he died, he stated that he was sacrificing his body for the sake of the unity of Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet, and said it was his hope that Tibetans can remain united and protect and uphold the Tibetan language,” the source said.

Gyal’s self-immolation brought to 123 the number of Tibetans in China who have set themselves on fire calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.

The protest occurred a week after residents of Sichuan province’s Kardze (Ganzi) county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Qinghai province’s Dzatoe (Zaduo) county in the Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture refused orders to fly China’s national flag from their homes.

Previously, Tibetans in another county in Qinghai had refused orders to fly the flag, and residents of a county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) took flags distributed for display and dumped them into a river, prompting a security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check the self-immolation protests, arresting and jailing Tibetans whom they accuse of being linked to the burnings. Some have been jailed for up to 15 years.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.





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