Spiritual Leader Implores Tibetans Not to Self-Immolate in Protest of Chinese Rule

By Roseanne Gerin
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Tibetan protester Kalsang Wangdu is shown in an undated photo.
Tibetan protester Kalsang Wangdu is shown in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

A Tibetan spiritual leader urged Tibetans on Friday not to self-immolate in protest against Chinese rule, following the recent deaths of two Tibetans who set themselves ablaze and died.

“This week, two young Tibetan children, one in Tibet and one in India, have burned themselves to death,” Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, one of two claimants to the title of 17th Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

“These events pain me deeply,” he said. “I could not bear to think of it when I heard the news, and for that reason I want to make a request of my fellow Tibetans at home and abroad.”

"I ask all of you to continue living good and healthy lives," he said.

The first death by self-immolation occurred Monday when Kalsang Wangdu, an 18-year-old Tibetan monk from Maretsokha Aryaling monastery, burned himself to death to protest Chinese rule near his monastery in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Nyagrong (Xinlong) county, according to a source in the region.

The same day, Dorje Tsering, a 16-year-old Tibetan student living in India, set himself on fire to protest China’s policies and rule in Tibetan areas after telling his parents he hoped to do something “for the cause of Tibet,” a Tibetan source in exile told RFA. He was hospitalized but died of cardiac arrest late Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.

He was the eighth Tibetan to self-immolate outside China since 1998, according to the London-based rights group Free Tibet.

The Karmapa noted that despite the nearly 150 Tibetans inside Tibet and abroad who have self-immolated to make a strong statement against Chinese rule and call for Tibet’s independence, no one in the international community has responded to those acts in ways that help the Tibetan cause.

“Within Tibetan society, people will applaud them for a few days, saying, ‘He’s a hero,’ ‘She’s a heroine’ or ‘That is incredible,’ he wrote. “But that does not help."

“It is important to deeply consider the physical pain of those who set themselves on fire and the mental suffering of the relatives they leave behind, as well as whether this will help or harm Tibet, immediately, within a short while, or in the long term,” he said.

‘Sense of community’

The Karmapa implored his fellow Tibetans to increase their “sense of community” and abandon their “attachment to old ways,” a reference to self-immolations.

“The Tibetan land is vast, but the Tibetan people are few in number,” he said. “Therefore, it is critical that every individual Tibetan remain alive in order to preserve the land and people of Tibet.

“In particular, most of those who have immolated themselves have been young," he said. "They are our hope and lifeblood for the future. This non-stop expenditure of life is a severe drain on Tibet as a whole.”

There have been 144 self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since a wave of fiery protests began in 2009.

Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since an abortive uprising in 1959. A handful of self-immolation protests have been over local land or property disputes.

Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA's Tibetan Service.

Comments (5)


from NY

I don't want my fellow Tibetans self-immolating or sacrifing their lives for Tibet. I want Tibetans to live for Tibet & resist the Chinese occupation. Resistance inside Tibet makes the Chinese occupation more expensive & costly both economically & politically. Mass protests would show the CCP that Tibetans are in charge, not the Party. The CCP Dynasty is powerful but they are not invulnerable or immortal. The Soviet Empire listed less than 80 years & the CCP Empire is in its last decade. All empire eventually fall.

Mar 18, 2016 01:59 PM

Christian Thomas Kohl

from Freiburg

An open Letter for Publication.

​​Dear Sir, I have heard about Dorjee Tsering who has died three days after setting himself on fire. The student Dorjee Tsering had self-immolated on Monday in Dehradun, India, while shouting "Free Tibet", according to an a​d​vocacy group based in London. The London based "Free Tibet" group tells us: "His father, Thupten, told Free Tibet's reserch partner Tibet Wach that this is a heartbreaking incident but he is proud of his son and his sacrifice for the Tibetan nation".

Please let me give a short commentary about this heartbraking story about Dorjee Tsering. My name is Christian Thomas Kohl. I belong to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition since 1983. My first teacher had been Kalu Rinpoche. I have three children and two grand children. I am a teacher of politics and history. I am a specialist in the history of communism. My students are 15 years old. I feel for Dorjee Tsering like he was my son or my student. I feel very sorry for him for his father and for his mother and for his brothers and sisters.

I am well informed about the horrible situation of Tibet since 1959. The Chinese government is strong. The Chinese Economy is strong. The Chinese bank managers are strong. They are the ruling class of China. The Chinese majority will not give up Tibet for geographical and economic reasons. Even a democratic China will be under the command of bank managers like in Hong Kong today, these managers will not give independence or autonomy to Tibet as the will not give independance to Hong Kong. Never.

Tibet has no chance for freedom or independance or autonomy. No sacrifice for Tibet will help. No shouting "Free Tibet" will help. Every father and every mother can be proud when they have a son or a daughter alive not dead.

The Tibetan population is treated by the ruling managers of China as if they were animals. This is not only a question of communism. A democratic China will not give up Tibet because of economc interest. This is more or less well known. But no self - immolation will change this. Please, my sons and my daughters of Tibet do not self - immolate. Do not break the hearts of your mothers. I feel so sorry for Dorjee Tsering and for his mother. Christian Thomas Kohl, Freiburg

Mar 10, 2016 07:27 AM

Dewey R. Kerr Jr.

from Sanduksy Ohio USA

They will have to deal with all that Negative Karma in the next life. And it will not be Pretty..They will suffer Greatly.

Mar 08, 2016 09:30 AM

Ani Jangchub Lhamo

I agree, but haven’t you done the same, yourself?—spiritual self-immolation of the Karmapa title and Karma Kagyu Lineage. This self-immolation of title and activity will burn far hotter than flesh engulfed in the flames of gasoline. And the mundane fame and fortune you seek will be doused quite quickly. And it the end, what will be left beyond the smoking embers of self-importance and the thought of what could have been? This self-immolation of the authentic spiritual Karmapa and Kagyu Monlam activity makes me far more depressed and sad. And it is not simply “attachment to the old ways.” So deposit this into your HH’s new, “modern” method of off-shore Kagyu Monlam LTD accounts and hollow Ivy League honors. It is because of leaders like this that we have these political/spiritual conflicts and so many young people die. Their blood is on his hands too.

Mar 04, 2016 08:36 PM

Giovanni Vassallo

from San Francisco

Karmapa Chenno! Long Live His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa!

Mar 04, 2016 06:28 PM

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