In the first self-immolation since December, a 24-year-old Tibetan man set himself on fire in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan. Witnesses said that he may have been alive when police removed his body from the scene. Voice of America reports:
Monitors say a 24-year-old Tibetan man set himself on fire Saturday outside a monastery in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, a region heavily populated by ethnic Tibetans who protest China’s policies in their nearby homeland.
A statement Sunday from the organization “Free Tibet” said the man self-immolated Saturday afternoon, drawing a large detachment of police and security personnel who took him into custody.
Witnesses are quoted as saying Pema Gyaltsen was thought to be alive when arrested. But the statement said activists have been unable to confirm his current condition or whether he survived the ordeal.
Radio Free Asia reports on efforts by authorities to prevent news of the self-immolation from spreading:
In a one-minute video clip that was circulating on Tibetan social media, Chinese police are seen dispersing Tibetan onlookers from a scene of commotion, with women crying. Sources told RFA that authorities blocked the popular smartphone application WeChat following the self-immolation.
“In the evening around ten close relatives of Pema Gyaltsen from Nyagrong went to Kardze county police station to see self-immolator Pema Gyaltsen. But the Chinese beat them severely and detained them for the entire night, and forced them to stand up the whole night,” a Tibetan exile source with contacts in the town told RFA.
“Today some of them could barely walk from the beating, but they were released under the guarantee of a Nyagrong official,” the source added. [Source]
Free Tibet posted a YouTube video reportedly showing the heavy police presence around the area of Pema Gyaltsen’s self-immolation:
In December, 33-year-old Tasha Rabten died after self-immolating. According to news reports, several people were detained for distributing footage of the incident. Since 2009, 147 people have set themselves on fire to protest Beijing’s policies in Tibet.