An 18-year-old monk in Aba (Ngaba), Sichuan killed himself in a self-immolation protest on Saturday, according to media reports and exile groups. From South China Morning Post:
Kunchok Sonam, 18, carried out the protest on Saturday outside a monastery in Aba prefecture, Radio Free Asia said in a report that cited residents in the area.
Sonam shouted slogans “crying for Tibetan freedom”, the broadcaster, which is funded by the US government, cited a local resident as saying.
The self-immolation was the first by a Tibetan on the mainland for five weeks, the report said, adding that his fellow monks had prevented Chinese authorities from taking away Sonam’s body after the deadly protest.
Restrictions on communication in the area “have been intensified” after the self-immolation, the London-based Free Tibet advocacy group said in a statement. [Source]
Phayul, based in Dharamsala, India, reports on the scene after Kunchok Sonam passed away:
Chinese security personnel arrived at the site of the protest and tried to bundle away Kunchok Sonam’s body. However, local Tibetans present there succeeded in rescuing the deceased’s body from falling into Chinese hands.
According to reports, more than 1500 Tibetans later gathered at the monastery to pay their last respects to Kunchok Sonam and also took part in a special prayer ceremony.
The exile Tibetan administration has said that the situation in the region “remains tense” with local Chinese authorities deploying a large number of security forces at the monastery. Telephone and internet lines in the region have also been cut. [Source]
Radio Free Asia reports that the efforts to reclaim Kunchok Sonam’s body have led to protests at his monastery:
Hundreds of Tibetans have gathered at the monastery in support of monks from the institution who prevented Chinese authorities from taking away his body, they said.
“He self-immolated and died between 8 am and 9 am after crying for Tibetan freedom,” a Dzoege resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The Chinese authorities insisted possession of his body but the monks of the monastery refused to comply,” the resident said. “People have flocked to the monastery in symphathy with the self-immolator and to back the monastery, which has 300 monks.”
The deadly burning protest by Kunchok Sonam, from Thangkor village in Dzoege, brought to 121 the total number of self-immolations since the wave of burnings began in February 2009 in protest against Chinese rule and demanding the return of Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. [Source]
Meanwhile, Phayul also reports that three Tibetans have been sentenced to up to ten years for protesting Chinese authorities’ claim to the body of a self-immolator in December:
A Chinese court in Siling sentenced Doptrug, 51 to ten years; Ugyen Dorjee, 40 to 21 months and Choekyab to 18 months for taking part in a protest demanding the body of Tibetan self-immolator Lobsang Gedun last December.
Lobsang Gendun, a 29-year-old monk of the Penag Kadak Troedreling Monastery in Seley Thang region of Golog Pema Dzong set himself on fire on December 3, 2012 protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet.
[…] China has criminalised the self-immolation protests and sentenced scores of people to heavy prison terms on charges of “intentional homicide” for their alleged roles in the fiery protests. Chinese officials have barred Tibetans from offering prayers and showing solidarity with families of self-immolators and announced the cancellation of development funds to those villages where self-immolations have taken place. [Source]
Read more about self-immolation protests by Tibetans, via CDT.