Father-of-seven dies in Tibet self-immolation

Friday, 17 April 2015

Calls for return of Dalai Lama after China slams door on negotiations

45-year-old Nyi Kyab died after setting himself alight in Ngaba, eastern Tibet, yesterday morning, 16 April (1, picture available). After setting up a makeshift altar on the outside wall of his home, the former monk set himself alight next to it. The altar (2, picture available) bore family photographs and pictures of the exiled Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the most senior figures of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyi Kyab called “let His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] return to Tibet” and “free Panchen Rinpoche [the Panchen Lama]” after setting himself on fire.

Police removed his body and businesses in the area have been closed by Tibetans as a sign of respect.

Nyi Kyab (also known as Dam Khar) was a father of seven children, aged between 21 and seven-years-old. The former monk was recognised as a peacemaker in his local community and was the recipient of a peace award given by 42 monasteries in the Ngaba area.

Earlier this week, China issued a white paper completely rejecting the Dalai Lama’s long-standing “Middle Way” proposal for greater autonomy for Tibet within the Chinese constitution, accusing him of instigating self-immolations and insisting that he accept Tibet has been a part of China “since antiquity” (3). The paper follows recent Communist Party announcements in the Tibet Autonomous Region that monks and nuns would be subject to tests of loyalty and that monasteries should fly the Chinese flag (4).

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“The link between China’s policies and self-immolation protests couldn’t be clearer. Numbers of self-immolations have diminished significantly in the last year but in the last few weeks we’ve seen further restrictions on religious freedom, further vilification of the Dalai Lama and Beijing’s flat rejection of any proposals from the Tibetan side that could help resolve Tibetan grievances. If China is interpreting the relative lack of protests in 2015 as a sign of Tibetan acquiescence or having won Tibetans over, it is gravely misreading the situation. China’s recent policies make significant unrest in Tibet a real possibility in the near future.”

Nyi Kyab’s protest was the third self-immolation of 2015. Self-immolations began in Ngaba and three of the last five self-immolations that have taken place in Tibet have occurred there (5). This week’s white paper by China’s government specifically referred to protests in the area as “having close links with the Dalai group” (6).

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Notes to editors

(1) Portrait photograph of Nyi Kyab at https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157651948746396/. Location: Soruma Village, Ngaba County (Ch: Aba County), Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Ch: Aba Tibetan & Qiang Autonomous Prefecture) , Sichuan Province.

(2) Photograph of altar at https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157651948746396/ and available from FreeTibet. The role of Panchen Lama is determined by reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhist belief. The Dalai Lama recognised six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the Panchen Lama in 1995 but shortly after, the child and his family disappeared and their whereabouts remain unknown. China’s government appointed its own Panchen Lama, who is rejected by most Tibetans.

(3) Tibet's Path of Development Is Driven by an Irresistible Historical Tide 15 April 2015, English China News Service (ECNS) http://www.ecns.cn/2015/04-15/161801.shtml

(4) Daily Telegraph, 8 April 2015 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/11523787/Let-the-red-flag-fly-over-Tibet-monasteries-says-Chinas-top-official-in-the-region.html

(5) 16 April 2015; Norchuk, 6 March 2015; Tsepe Kyi 22 December 2014. Self-immolations also began in Ngaba with the first two taking place there. For a full list of self-immolations see http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet
(6) Tibet's Path of Development Is Driven by an Irresistible Historical Tide 15 April 2015, English China News Service (ECNS) http://www.ecns.cn/2015/04-15/161801_7.shtml