Monk dies after setting himself on fire in protest in Tibet

16th August 2011

A 29-year-old monk, Tsewang Norbu, also known as Norko, set himself on fire on the Chume Bridge (Ch. Street name Bing He Lu) in the centre of Tawu (Ch. Daofu), Kandze (Ch. Garzi) Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province at 12:30 pm (Tibet local time) on 15 August 2011.

Tsewang Norbu drank petrol, sprayed himself with petrol and then set himself on fire. He was heard calling out: “We Tibetan people want freedom”, “Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Let the Dalai Lama Return to Tibet”. He is believed to have died at the scene.

Shortly after details emerged about Tsewang's death telephone lines have been cut and internet cafes closed in an effort to control news spreading across Tibet and to prevent news being shared with the outside world. We have received reports that the army has surrounded the monastery.

The local community celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday in their thousands this year despite a ban by the local authority. After thousands defied the ban and joined in the celebrations on 6 July 2011 the new hardline Party Secretary for Tawu County Tashi Wangyal (Ch:Zha xi Wen jia) called a county level meeting. In the meeting he reportedly said that he believed the people who had organised the birthday celebrations were also behind the protests in Tawu in 2008. He vowed to track down the ringleaders.

Nyitso Monastery's water and electricity supply has been cut repeatedly since the birthday celebrations. A local source thinks that the authorities instructed the army to cut the water and electricity at the monastery to punish the monks for attending the birthday celebrations.

Lobsang Khedup originally from Nyitso Monastery who now lives in India appealed for the support the international community. He said: "The current situation is unpredictable. Telephone lines are cut off. I can not contact my family in Tawu. This is a very bad sign. I can not imagine what the authorities in Tawu will now do if there are protests against Chinese oppression. International governments should urge China to respond with tolerance. Please help us. '
Tsewang’s death has happened less than 6 months after another monk, Phuntsog, set himself on fire on the streets of Ngaba Town in the same region. Following Phuntsog’s death, the Chinese regime deployed troops onto the streets of Ngaba, forcibly removed hundreds of monks, imposed curfews, undertook house searches and detained and sentenced scores of Tibetans. Military checkpoint around the town remain six months later. We have grave concerns over what could unfold in Tawu.

More than 40 Tibetans have now set themselves on fire in protest at the repressive Chinese occupation of their country. See the full list.