Xu Zhiyong: Tibet Is Burning

Lawyer and civil rights activist Xu Zhiyong is the first prominent Han Chinese to speak out publicly in support of Tibetans as the number of self-immolation protests escalates. In the New York Times, he writes about his journey in October to pay respects to the family of Nangdrol, an 18-year-old who died after setting himself on fire. Paraphrasing the note left by Nangdrol, Xu calls the current situation in Tibet “scarless torture.” He writes about his fellow passengers on his ride to Nangdrol’s hometown:

“Pardon me, but do you hate the Hans?” I asked them because Nangdrol had used the term “Han devils” in his suicide note. They’d heard about Nangdrol. When I told them I was there to visit Nangdrol’s parents to express my sadness, they told me more.

They said they’d been to the site, as hundreds of Tibetans had. People had set up white tents at the intersection where he died. “He is our hero,” one said.

It was dark when we arrived in Barma. At a lamppost, one of my fellow passengers asked a man for directions but was waved off. At a crossroads, he asked two men on motorcycles and an argument broke out. A monk came to the window to examine me.


“We are Tibetans,” he said all of a sudden as we left Barma in silence to spend the night in a nearby town. “We are Buddhists, but we can’t go to Lhasa without a permit.” Years ago, you could see many Tibetans on their pilgrimage to Lhasa, but not anymore.

Xu Zhiyong is the co-founder of Open Constitution Initiative (Gongmeng), a legal advocacy group, and one of China’s most famous human rights lawyers. In recent years he has taken on a number of sensitive cases, and in 2009 he was arrested and charged with tax evasion before the case was dismissed. Read more by and about Xu Zhiyong via CDT.

Hong Kong-based iSunAffairs Magazine featured a a graphic photo of a self-immolation on its cover accompanied by an article by writer Wang Lixiong, who is married to Tibetan writer Woeser:

Subscribe to CDT


Google Ads 1


Giving Assistant

Google Ads 2

Anti-censorship Tools

Life Without Walls

Click on the image to download Firefly for circumvention

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.