On Saturday, an 18-year-old nun from Aba county, Sichuan died after setting herself on fire. Her death is the latest in a string of self-immolations among Tibetans in which more than a dozen have died. Voice of America reports:
Tibetan activists identified the nun as Tenzin Choedon, who was quickly taken away by Chinese security forces. Her nunnery, located in Aba county, east of Tibet, was immediately sealed off.
The nun’s death brings the number of Tibetans who have died from self-immolation in the past year to more than one dozen.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts reports from Aba on the government’s efforts to block access to the region in the wake of the self-immolations and other protests:
At the nearby Kirti monastery, Chinese officers in fire trucks keep a close eye on pilgrims prostrating themselves, in case their devotion turns to immolation.
Outsiders are not supposed to see this. The Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to block access to Aba, in north-western Sichuan, which is home to more than half the 23 monks, nuns and lay Buddhists who have set fire to themselves in acts of defiance aimed at the Chinese Communist party in the past two years.
The authorities have blocked internet and mobile phone signals. Checkpoints have been set up on surrounding roads to keep outside observers, particularly foreign journalists, away.
But after a 10-hour drive through mountain valleys and snow-covered plains, the Guardian was able to get into Aba and witness how the authorities are trying to quell dissent with security, propaganda and “re-education” campaigns. These tactics have had little success. Despite flooding Aba with security personnel, the protests continue.
China Media Project reported that a Sina Weibo post linking to this Guardian story was quickly deleted.
The death of Tenzin Choedon follows reports of four more self-immolations last week. A letter written in 1965 by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nath Hanh to Martin Luther King, Jr. provides a Buddhist perspective on self-immolation as an act of protest. Read more about the phenomenon of self-immolation by Tibetans via CDT.
Update: Shanghaiist reports that Xinhua has acknowledged the death of Tenzin Choedon by self-immolation.