Tibetan farmer self-immolates and dies at prayer festival

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A 41-year-old father of two has become the latest Tibetan to set himself on fire in protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Shichung, a farmer and part-time tailor, self-immolated at around 4pm (local time) in Gomang Thawa village, Goman township, Ngaba County, eastern Tibet (1) yesterday (28 September). He died at the scene. Free Tibet has received confirmed reports of the incident from our research partner Tibet Watch.

The protest took place during the annual Mani prayer festival. According to our sources, Shichung left the festival around midday and returned home to prepare for his self-immolation. He lit butter lamps in front of a photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet. He set himself on fire just outside his home and ran towards the nearby main road before dying in the street.

Free Tibet has received a portrait picture of Shichung (2).

Shichung had expressed his inner feelings about the ongoing Chinese occupation to some friends in a tea shop a few days ago saying: “These people (Chinese authorities) look down on us (Tibet) and it seems they won't leave us in peace.”

After the protest more than 100 police and military personnel, who were already in the village to supervise the celebration of the Mani festival, arrived at the scene.

The authorities confronted the local Tibetans who had gathered to take Shichung's body home. They forcibly took the body; claiming it was necessary as part of their investigation into the incident. Some Tibetans attempted to take it back but were restrained by local elders who feared the incident could escalate and result in a brutal crackdown by the Chinese authorities.

In response to the day's events the people of Thawa village brought the festival celebrations to an end. The police and military presence in the village has now subsided and so far there are no reports of any arrests or detentions following the self-immolation.

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“This latest protest demonstrates that China’s attempts to silence Tibetan dissent have failed. Despite collective punishments, prohibitive jail sentences, communications blackouts and much more, the spirit of Tibet’s resistance is as strong as ever. We can expect protests to continue as long as China continues to ignore the basic human rights of Tibetans, and the world turns a blind eye to Tibet.”

This is the first incident of self-immolation protest in Tibet since July. Around 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March 2011 (3).

Ends

Notes to editors

1. Chinese: Cha Bu Rang village, Ge Mo Xiang township, Aba County, Aba Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province
2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/9998053776/
3. http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet

For further information or comment, contact Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren:
E: eleanor@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0) 7809 331313