Self-immolation protest at New Year Prayer Festival in eastern Tibet

Friday, 14 February 2014

25-year-old Lobsang Dorjee set himself on fire around 6:30 pm (local time) yesterday evening, Thursday 13 February, in Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, eastern Tibet (1).

Lobsang's self-immolation was the second of 2014 and took place at an intersection not far from Kirti monastery in Ngaba town. Lobsang was heard to be shouting slogans but we were unable to confirm his actual words.

A police patrol spotted Lobsang Dorjee very soon after he set himself alight and put out the fire. There was already a heavy police presence in the town as many people had gathered around the monastery to celebrate the lunar New Year (30 Jan to 14 February) and also the annual New Year prayer festival, which takes place during the last four days of the holiday. Since 2008 the Chinese authorities have tightened security around Tibetan gatherings at this time of year.

Lobsang was put in a police car and covered with a black cloth. Once inside the car he was seen to sit up but was pressed back down by police before the car departed. His current condition and whereabouts are not known. Security in the town is now even tighter, with armed police patrolling the streets (photos available, 2).

Lobsang Dorjee is from Upper Ranch village, Chara township (Ch: Jia luo), in Ngaba County. He had previously been a monk at Kirti monastery but more recently had been working with his mother and youngest brother in their car washing business in Darlag County (Ch: Da ri) in Qinghai Province. A few months before the protest he had returned home to Upper Ranch village to visit his father and attend the New Year prayer festival at Kirti monastery.

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“It is incredibly sad that so many holidays and festivals in Tibet have ceased to be a time of celebration and have instead become times of increased repression, when armed troops patrol the streets of towns and villages looking for trouble. When will China realise that these displays of force are counter-productive? The military and police presence is intended to cow the Tibetans into quiet submission but it often creates tension and incites protest. Over 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the occupation of their homeland and it is China that is responsible for every single one of the self-immolations.”

Information provided by Tibet Watch.

Ends.

For further information or comment, contact Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren:

E: eleanor@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes for editors

1. Location: Ngaba Town (Ch: Aba), Ngaba County (Ch: Aba), Ngaba TAP, Sichuan Province.

2. Photos available on Free Tibet's Flickr page. WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

3. 125 self-immolations have been confirmed in Tibet with two further fire deaths thought to be protests but unconfirmed. Full list of confirmed self-immolation protests at http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/full-list-self-immolations-tibet.