Self-immolation and tension in Tibet as solidarity vigils held across the globe
At approximately 6 pm today (local time), an unidentified person set themselves on fire in Ngaba town, Ngaba County, Eastern Tibet (Ch: Aba, Aba Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan) (2) according to local secondary sources. Conflicting reports have been received as to the exact location of the self-immolation. The well-being and whereabouts of the person are unknown. An eye-witness reported that two monks were detained at the location of the self-immolation immediately afterwards.
Trying to explain the pressure people were suffering in Ngaba, a local person recalled a proverb: “We are sweating even without the sun” and called on “the United Nations and anyone else who can help, to please help solve our problems. Brave Tibetans are dying [self-immolating], others are detained and arrested, and others, like me, who are not brave enough to do something, are scared and are suffering under Chinese Government repression.”
Tensions in Ngaba have been increasing over the last few days – locals have described security personnel outnumbering locals by as much as three to one.
By the beginning of the day (8 February), rumours had already spread in Ngaba town that there would be a protest. One eye-witness reported that military units were patrolling the streets armed with ‘guns, wooden sticks, batons and metal sticks with nails’. Between 40 and 50 military vehicles were said to be parked in front of Kirti monastery and there were few Tibetans on the streets in the town. The eye-witness went on to describe seeing hundreds of military personnel marching through the town, followed by what were described as “armoured vehicles, mounted with guns”. The eye-witness described seeing many plain clothed security personnel, who were believed to act as agent provocateurs to turn any protests “ugly”.
Another source reported from a village in Ngaba County that locals had been told that if they left their homes tonight they would be detained.
Earlier in the day, a prayer ceremony being held at Kirti monastery was cut short. Kirti monastery has been under close surveillance since reportedly up to 300 Chinese officials were sent there following a recent protest in nearby Meruma Township (3).
Some Chinese people living in the area described the situation to Tibetan friends as unsafe; concerned that the arrests of local Tibetans and the use of force against unarmed Tibetan civilians would create tensions between the local Tibetan community and migrant Chinese business people; some had closed their shops and left the area.
Ngaba town is now described as being ‘heavily restricted’, especially at Kirti and Se monasteries. A candlelit vigil was held at Se monastery on Sunday 5 February. Se monastery hosts between 800 and 1,000 monks.
Update from Barma Township, Dzamthang County, scene of fatal shooting on 27 January (4).
Today, police went door-to-door in Barma Township demanding that locals write down and sign criticism of the protest on 27 January 2012 (at which a Tibetan man, Urgen (5), was shot dead by Chinese state security personnel). They were asked to do this in Chinese. Those who can’t write in Chinese were asked to verbalise their complaints and police would write down what they said and they then had to sign the paper.
Earlier this week, a public meeting was held by government officials in which they tried to lead a discussion on how “bad” the protest had been as part of propaganda efforts.
Notes to editors
2) Ngaba Town has seen self-immolations, protests and a disproportionate Chinese security response since March 2011 http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/selfimmolations
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