Tibetan Woman Sets Herself Alight

She is believed to have been protesting Chinese land confiscation policies.

A Tibetan man sits in the rubble of quake-destroyed homes in Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu), April 22, 2010.

A Tibetan woman set herself ablaze last week in western China’s Qinghai province in protest against what she said were unjust Chinese land confiscation policies, according to local sources.

The woman, whose name and age are unknown, is a resident of Qinghai’s Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and self-immolated on June 27 in the township of Jyekundo, also called Gyegu, residents told RFA’s Tibetan Kham service.

“The woman is the daughter of a local man named Petse,” said a Jyekundo resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“She moved to the area a couple of years ago and the self-immolation was in protest against the confiscation of her residence,” the man said.

He said authorities had spared homes in the neighborhood of those who maintained good relations with local authorities, but had singled out her residence for demolition.

“The woman’s protest was against this Chinese injustice,” he said.

Ngawang Topden, a source from Jyekundo who currently lives in southern India, said that the woman had set herself on fire in an area near the Jyekun monastery sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m.

He said that after the woman self-immolated, authorities extinguished the flames and rushed her to a local hospital. Her present condition is unknown, although she was thought to be “seriously” injured.

“Some in the area believe that she protested against the Chinese land policy and the unfair allocation of land after the tragic earthquake in the Yulshul area,” he said, referring to the April 2010 quake which leveled the town, killing an estimated 3,000 people there and in surrounding areas.

He said it was unclear what slogans the woman had shouted before setting herself alight as authorities had moved to shut down the flow of information from the area.

Police cordoned off the site of the self-immolation after the woman was brought to the hospital and have since forbidden meetings between Tibetan residents, Ngawang Topden said. He said that many people from the area had witnessed the incident.

He said the woman’s family had tried to visit her in the hospital, but had been prevented from doing so by authorities.

Tibetan poet and writer Woeser, currently based in Beijing, also confirmed the self-immolation in a blog post on June 29.

Land dispute

Chinese security forces in April last year broke up a mass protest by Tibetans in Yulshul over the seizure of their land for redevelopment after the area was devastated by the 2010 earthquake.

About 300 Tibetans—unhappy at the government takeover of their land—sat down in protest at the town’s main intersection.

Many of the protesters were wounded and several detained in the bloody crackdown by up to 500 armed police, according to sources.

Reporting on the causes of the protest, the website of the India-based Tibetan government-in-exile pointed to “unfair distribution of accommodations, construction on land owned by the Tibetans, possession of land by the government for building roads, and selling Tibetan land under the excuse of not being able to locate the rightful owners.”

The Yulshul woman’s protest brings to 42 the number of Tibetans who have set fire to themselves in protest against Chinese rule since the current wave of burnings began in February 2009.

Nearly all of the self-immolations have taken place in Tibetan-populated provinces in western China as Tibetans challenge Chinese policies which they say have robbed them of their rights.

The first self-immolation protest in Tibet’s capital Lhasa was reported in May when two young Tibetan men set themselves ablaze in a central square in the heavily guarded city.

Reported by Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan Kham service. Translated by Tseten Namgyal. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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