Two Tibetans sustained gunshot wounds while attempting to protect a monk who had self-immolated in protest from authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, a source said Wednesday.
Kalsang Yeshe, 38, set himself ablaze on Tuesday outside the Tawu Nyitso monastery in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Tawu (Daofu) county, in the second self-immolation protest this week against Beijing’s rule in Tibetan-populated areas of China.
Police fired warning shots to disperse a crowd that had gathered to protect Yeshe from authorities as the monk was engulfed in flames, wounding two Tibetans, a former resident of Tawu county named Tawu Tenzin told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Tenzin, who now lives in exile in India, said he had been informed of the shooting by a monk named Tsering—one of the two Tibetans that suffered a bullet wound while attempting to guard Yeshe.
The crowd dispersed after the shooting and police took Yeshe for medical treatment at Dartsedo hospital, but he died en route, sources told RFA.
Later, Yeshe’s family tried to retrieve his body from authorities to bury him according to traditional Tibetan rites, but they were told that the monk had been cremated and his ashes discarded in a river in Dartsedo, Tenzin said.
“The relevant officials from the Chinese government did not honor the request of his family members and the abbot of Tawu Nyitso monastery to allow traditional burial rites for the deceased,” he said.
Tenzin said that at the time of self-immolation, Yeshe was holding a Tibetan flag, and it was discovered that he placed a ceremonial scarf underneath the image of the Dalai Lama in his room with a caption reading “The six million Tibetans are waiting for you.”
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.
Thousands of nuns, monks and lay people have gathered at Tawu monastery to hold mass prayer sessions for Yeshe for several days, Tawu Lobsang Jinpa, another former resident of Tawu county, told RFA.
“There was an immense outpouring of support and solidarity for the self-immolator,” he said.
Yeshe’s self-immolation followed a similar protest on Monday, in which a 20-year-old woman named Tsepe died after setting herself ablaze in Ngaba county’s Meruma town in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
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.
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.
Reported by Lhuboom and Sonam Wangdue of RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.