Two teenagers are reported to have set themselves on fire on Nongjichang Road in the centre of Ngaba Town, Ngaba County, Eastern Tibet (Chinese: Aba Town, Aba County, Aba Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province) at 11.30am local time. There are unconfirmed reports that Choepel, aged 19, died at the scene, while the condition of Khayang (also known as Lunyang), aged 18, is unknown. There have now been seven self-immolations in Tibet since March, all within the same region (1).
Rumours are circulating that dozens of monks are now ready to sacrifice their lives. Separate reports tell of pamphlets distributed and posted around the local Kirti Monastery and the market place in Ngaba town a few days ago which state that if Chinese policies at the monastery and in the town continue, “many more people were prepared to give up their lives in protest.” The situation in Ngaba has been extremely tense (2) since the first self-immolation in March this year: local sources report that there are still high numbers of security personnel in the town and increased numbers of soldiers billeted outside the town. Locals describe the town as being “completely under control”. People have been sentenced and imprisoned for alleged involvement in protests and in connection with self-immolations (3). At Kirti Monastery, compulsory patriotic re-education, detentions and expulsions have led to a fall in the number of monks in the monastery from approximately 2500 in March to approximately 600 now. This is a cause of great distress.
On Saturday 1 October, in Serthar, a few hundred kilometres from Ngaba, several hundred people are reported to have gathered, chanting “We want freedom” and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama. The protest began after police took down a Tibetan flag and a picture of the Dalai Lama that had been put up as a form of protest on a municipal building. A leaflet from Serthar that has been distributed locally and through blogs (4) says:
“Tibetan brethren do not fall asleep under the oppression of the Chinese ... Long Live the Dalai Lama. Victory to Tibet, Victory to Tibet.”
More than 40 Tibetans have now set themselves on fire in protest at the repressive Chinese occupation of their country. See the full list.
Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said:
“It is now evident there are many courageous young Tibetans who are determined to draw global attention to one of the world’s greatest and longest-standing human rights crises no matter the cost to themselves. Tibetans are sharing news of the self-immolations in online chat rooms and through word-of-mouth, images are being exchanged via text messages; Tibetans are determined that these acts do not go unnoticed and are willing to risk the penalties for sharing information to guarantee the news gets out.
The international community can no longer stand silent in the face of the ongoing violent Chinese state repression of the Tibetan people, it’s time to stand up and be counted.”
The Karmapa (5), the head of one of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism (Kagyu), said of the recent self-immolations: “Monks take a vow that says they are not allowed to end their lives. But on the other hand, these actions are not for an individual, they are for a people." (6)
Choepel and Khayang are reported to have been wearing lay clothes when they set fire to themselves; they are believed to have previously been monks at Kirti Monastery. Chonpel was expelled from the monastery at the time of Phuntsog’s self-immolation in March this year. It is not known why Khayang left the monastery. Khayang’s uncle, Tashi, was one of 13 people shot dead by Chinese forces in Ngaba in March 2008 (7).
Notes to Editor
1) 16 March 2011: Phuntsog (21 yrs old; died), Ngaba: http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/160311-monk-self-immolation
15 August 2011: Tsewang Norbu (29 yrs old; died), Tawu, Kardze (Ch. Garzi), Sichuan : http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/monk-dies-after-setting-himself-fire-protest-tibet
26 September 2011: Lobsang Kalsang & Lobsang Konchok (18-19 yrs old; wellbeing & whereabouts unknown), Ngaba : http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/two-more-tibetan-monks-set-themselves-alight
3 October 2011: Kalsang Wangchuk (17-18 yrs old; wellbeing & whereabouts unknown), Kirti, http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/fifth-monk-self-immolates
5) Ogyen Trinley Dorje, living in exile in Dharamsala, North India
Free Tibet is an international campaigning organisation that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. We campaign for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.
For further information and interviews please contact Free Tibet’s Director Stephanie Brigden
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