Today’s fifth self-immolation in Tibet establishes unprecedented trend

Monday, 3 October 2011

A young monk set himself on fire at 2pm local time today at the vegetable market in Ngaba Town (Ch. Aba), Ngaba County, Eastern Tibet, Sichuan province; it is reported that he was holding a picture of the Dalai Lama when he set fire to himself and calling for religious rights and freedom in Tibet. The monk, Kalsang, is seventeen or eighteen years old and is from Kirti monastery, Ngaba. Police put out the flames but the current well-being and whereabouts of Kalsang are unknown. Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said: “It is tragic that a fifth monk has set fire to himself in Tibet this year, only a week after two young monks from the same monastery also did this (1). A growing number of Tibetans clearly feel that this is the only way that they can be heard. This is an extremely worrying and absolutely unprecedented trend that we hope will end. Prior to 2011, only one monk in Tibet is known to have set fire to himself (2). The international community must help stop this shocking trend by showing Tibetans that there is a determination to protect and promote the rights of Tibetans in Tibet and a road map for doing so. The situation in Ngaba is already tense following the Chinese authorities’ repressive response to the previous self immolations (3). We hope that China will recognise the failure of such measures to appease Tibetan grievances, and will now respond to Tibetans’ distress in an appropriate, constructive way, in particular by resuming talks for a negotiated solution to the crisis in Tibet.” While it is impossible to know if Tibetans in other areas of Tibet know about the self-immolations or whether these acts are part of wider protests, we do know that news of Tsewang Norbu’s setting fire to himself (4) spread by word of mouth and via pictures on mobile phones, and that just this weekend there was a significant protest in Serthar, (Chinese: Seda) in Kandze prefecture (Chinese:Ganzi), Sichuan, a few hundred kilometres from Ngaba. On Saturday 1 October, in Serthar, several hundred people are reported to have gathered, chanting “We want freedom” and calling for the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama. The protest began after police took down a Tibetan flag and a picture of the Dalai Lama that had been put up as a form of protest on a municipal building. A leaflet from Serthar that has been distributed locally and through blogs (5) says: “Tibetan brethren do not fall asleep under the oppression of the Chinese ... Long Live the Dalai Lama. Victory to Tibet, Victory to Tibet.” Ends Notes to Editor 1. http://freetibet.org/newsmedia/two-more-tibetan-monks-set-themselves-alight 2. http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/2729 3. http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/ngaba-escalation 4. http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/monk-dies-after-setting-himself-fire-protest-tibet 5. http://www.highpeakspureearth.com/2011/10/message-from-serthar-tibet.html Free Tibet is an international campaigning organisation that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. We campaign for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected. For further information and interviews please contact Free Tibet’s Director Stephanie Brigden E: stephanie@freetibet.org T: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 M: +44 (0)7971 479515