Communist Party Chief Transferred After Tibetan Self-Immolations

Tenzin Yarphel in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A ruling Chinese Communist Party chief in a Tibetan-populated county in Sichuan province has been transferred after he was found to be popular among Tibetans and following a series of self-immolations against Chinese rule in the county, according to local residents.

Tenzin Yarphel, the Party secretary in Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo’ergai) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture was transferred to head the prefecture's department of environment protection, a low-profile appointment, on June 8, 2013, according to the prefecture's official website.

The often-cited reason for his removal was the series of self-immolations in Dzoege county under his watch but the change stemmed from his growing popularity among the Tibetans, residents said.

"Tenzin Yarphel was very popular in Dzoege as he was very responsive to the problems of the community," a Tibetan source in the area told a Tibetan originally from Dzoege and now living in exile in India's Dharamsala hill town.

"Recently, he allowed a special religious teaching in Dzoege area," the Dharamsala-based Tibetan told RFA's Tibetan Service.

"The authorities did not like his popularity with the local community and the approval of a special religious congregation. Therefore he was transferred to the prefecture's headquarters in Barkham (in Chinese, Ma’erkang) county," he said.

Five burnings this year

There have been five self-immolations, including two twin burnings, in Dzoege county this year protesting  Chinese rule and demanding the return of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Three other self-immolations took place in the county before this year.

One of the most controversial self-immolations was that involving a Tibetan woman who burned herself to death in March.

Konchog Wangmo, 31, set herself ablaze in Dzoege just before midnight on March 13 but news of the burning was hushed up by Chinese police who had grabbed her body, cremated it, and handed over the remains to her family, sources had said.

Her husband, Drolma Kyab, continues to be detained after he refused to comply with an order by the Chinese authorities who wanted to blame the self-immolation on a family squabble, one exiled Tibetan with contacts in the region told RFA.

"The parents of Kunchog Wangmo were also approached by the Chinese authorities and lured with an offer of 1 million yuan [U.S. $163,000] if they cooperated to agree that their daughter killed herself due to a domestic conflict," another Tibetan exile source said.

"However the parents refused to be charmed by the offer and refused to comply," the source said, adding that an elderly lady who worked at a local medical center and witnessed Konchog Wangmo's self-immolation had declared that she "sacrificed her life for the Tibetans.”

In February, two Tibetan teenagers died in self-immolation protests in Dzoege, highlighting the human rights plight of the new generation of Tibetans born under Chinese rule, while in April, two monks from the Tagtsang Lhamo Kirti monastery in Dzoege set themselves alight and died near the monastery.

A total of 120 Tibetans in Tibet and Tibetan-populated Chinese provinces have staged self-immolations since the wave of burning protests began in February 2009.

Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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