First self-immolation in Tibet in 2015

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Woman dies as sensitive anniversary draws near

A woman in her early forties died in Tibet on Friday 6 March after setting herself alight in eastern Tibet. The first self-immolation since December 2014 (1) took place four days before March 10, the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule and the most significant day in the Tibetan political calendar.

Norchuk self-immolated on Friday afternoon near Trotsuk township, in Ngaba County (2). From a nomadic family, she had recently taken a vow to be a pure vegetarian. Tibetans consider pure vegetarians to be people of great virtue. Authorities cremated her body – as is common practice after self-immolations – preventing her family and community from carrying out traditional funeral ceremonies.

A second protest took place in Ngaba on 7 March. A monk named Gedon Phuntsok carried out a solo protest on “Heroes Street” (also known as “Martyrs Street”) in Ngaba county town around 1pm (local time). During his protest Phuntsok carried a photograph of the Dalai Lama and shouted slogans calling for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet and freedom and equality. He was arrested and his current whereabouts are unknown.

Ngaba county is a frequent location for protest and a number of Tibetans have self-immolated on Heroes Street (1).

March is a traditional time of tension in Tibet because of the anniversary of the uprising. The nationwide disturbances of 2008 began in March and the first of the ongoing wave of self-immolations was in March 2011, in Ngaba County (3).

In preparation for the anniversary, security in Tibet is normally increased by the authorities and there have been significant military build-ups in several parts of Tibet this year (4). Photographs have emerged of a massive military presence at the Monlam prayer festival in eastern Tibet, featuring dense ranks of fully armed soldiers and armoured vehicles at the monastery courtyard (photos available, 5).

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“We are long past the peak of self-immolations in 2012 but it’s clear that the potential for more remains. Sadly, and incredibly, China still hasn’t learned that its repression in Tibet is one of the principle causes of all forms of Tibetan protest, including self-immolation. Its attempts to intimidate Tibetans this March are as ham-fisted as they are iron-fisted. Tibetans are going to protest as long as they’re denied freedom but Beijing still refuses to recognise that its approach to managing Tibet and Tibetan resistance has failed time and time again.”

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Notes to editors

(1) Last self-immolation: Kalsang Yeshi, 24 December 2014. Full list of self-immolators at http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet

(2) Location: Trotsuk, Ngaba County, Ngaba Tibetan Autnomous Prefecture, Amdo. (Ch: Aba County, Aba TAP, Sichuan Province)

(3) Phuntsog, 16 March 2011 http://freetibet.org/news-media/case-studies-phuntsog

(4) Free Tibet news story, 4 March http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/military-presence-intensified-amdo-tibet

(4) Free Tibet news story and slideshow http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/china-display-force-tibetan-religious-festival

Free Tibet campaigns for an end to China's occupation of Tibet and for international recognition of Tibetans' right to freedom. We mobilise active support for the Tibetan cause, champion human rights and challenge those whose actions sustain the occupation. www.freetibet.org