Tibetans Self-Immolate in India and China [Updated]

Tibetan monk reportedly died after self-immolating on February 29 in  Tibetan Autonomous Region, province. This is the 144th case of protest by self-immolation against Chinese policies in Tibetan regions since 2009, and the first such protest of 2016. Radio Free Asia’s Yangdon Demo reports:

Kalsang Wangdu, a monk of the Retsokha Aryaling monastery, self-immolated at around 4:00 p.m. on Feb. 29 near his monastery in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Nyagrong (Xinlong) county, RFA’s source said, contacting RFA on social media and speaking on condition of anonymity.

“[While he burned], he called out for ’s complete independence,” the source said, adding that witnesses to Wangdu’s protest “intervened,” intending to take him to Sichuan’s provincial capital for treatment.

“However, he died on the way before reaching Chengdu,” he said, adding, “His father’s name is Sotra, and his mother’s name is Urgyen Dolma.”

[…] Tibetans living in Kardze prefecture are known for their strong sense of Tibetan national identity and frequently stage protests alone or in groups opposing rule by Beijing. [Source]

The same day, a 16-year-old Tibetan named Dorje Tsering survived after self-immolating in Dehradun, India, becoming the eighth Tibetan to self-immolate outside of China. The AFP reports:

He survived with burns to 95 percent of his body and was hospitalised in Delhi.

“I have had a strong determination to do something for Tibet since my childhood,” a video showed him saying in his hospital bed, according to a translation by Free Tibet.

“I thought that there was nothing else I could do other than self-immolation, because if there is self-immolation, people get shocked, thinking that he set himself on fire for his country,” he went on, speaking through an oxygen mask and with his face swollen.

“It seems the oil put on my body was not enough for it to burn completely,” he added.

Free Tibet cited his father as saying that it was a heart-breaking incident but he was proud of his son. [Source]

[Updated at 10:40 PST on March 4, 2016: The New York Times’ Nida Najar reports that Dorje Tsering died from his injuries three days after his self-immolation.]

According to a Facebook post from Tibetan activist Jigme Ugden, the teenager’s self-immolation was brought to the attention of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

At The Indian Express, Abhishek Angad reports on attempts by Dorje Tsering’s 59-year-old mother to dissuade him from taking such drastic measures to make a statement:

Dorjee Tsering, a 16-year-old resident of Manali, allegedly set himself on fire Monday, minutes after telling his mother that he wanted to “do something for his country”, Tibet.

[…] Yangzom said that since August last year, her son had repeatedly talked about “doing something” for their homeland.

“Once, he called me from his hostel and said he would set himself on fire. I rebuked him and said if he wanted to do something for his country, he should do so through his studies. I warned him that if he tried to do anything stupid, even I would set myself on fire,” she said.

A few days ago, her son told her that he would “disappear after February”, said Yangzom. “I had no idea he would do something like this,” she said.

[…] At Safdarjung Hospital, Tsering reportedly told one of his family members, “I wanted to do something for my country and I figured that I can’t do much through studies”. [Source]

Last month, it was reported that an exhibit in Dhaka, Bangladesh featuring the writing of five Tibetans who had self-immolated was covered at the request of the Chinese ambassador.

The Dalai Lama, who Beijing accuses of inciting Tibetan protest by self-immolation, has remained largely silent on the issue, saying he has no other choice. “This is very, very sensitive political issue. Whatever I say the Chinese hardliners always manipulate,” he said in a 2014 interview with TIME. A recent investigative report from Reuters presents evidence that the Chinese government has been supporting anti-Dalai Lama protests abroad in effort to damage the spiritual leader’s largely favorable international reputation.

For more on Tibetan self-immolations, see prior coverage from CDT, an explanation of the factors driving self-immolation from Woeser (excerpted from her new book on the topic), or a data analysis from the Tibet Data GutHub page.

March 2, 2016 12:10 PM
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