Man survives self-immolation protest in Tibet

Monday, 6 October 2014

Kunchok, 42, set himself on fire on 16 September near a police station in Gade County, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, eastern Tibet (1). Very soon after he set himself alight in Tsangkor Sholma township, nearby Tibetans rushed to douse the flames and took him to hospital. News of his protest has just emerged as local Tibetans did not want to put him or those who assisted him at risk of arrest.

After Kunchok regained consciousness, he broke into tears and kept saying “I failed to accomplish my wish” (photograph of Kunchok in hospital, 2). Kunchok has a son who is a monk and a daughter who is a nun.

Details of the hospital in which he is being kept are being withheld to prevent him being detained by security forces. Most surviving self-immolators are detained incommunicado; those who die in custody or whose bodies are taken by the police are usually cremated by the authorities who return the ashes to the family, preventing them from conducting normal funeral services.

Kunchok’s medical condition is reported to be very serious with most of his body burned and his family are reported to be concerned that he will not survive.

His protest took place the day before the fatal self-immolation of Lhamo Tashi on 17 September (3). Before Kunchok’s self-immolation, no such protests had taken place in Tibet since 15 April 2014 (4).

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

"The treatment of surviving self-immolators is another indictment of China’s rule in Tibet and its disregard for the rule of law, basic human rights and the human dignity of Tibetans. All forms of protest are punished in Tibet. As the world watches events unfold in Hong Kong, we must not forget that inside China’s borders, others are struggling for democracy and freedom, at even greater risk and far from the eye of the media."

Information provided by Tibet Watch.

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Notes to editors

(1) Location: Tsangkor Sholma township, Gade County (Ch: Gande), Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Ch: Guolo TAP), Qinghai.

(2) Photograph available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157648452451915/ WARNING: clear injury detail in photograph.

(3) Lhamo Tashi, Free Tibet press release 21 September 2014 http://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/fatal-self-immolation-tibet

(4) Full list of self-immolators at http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet