Resistance in Tibet: Self-immolation and protest

GANSU

East Turkestan Xinjiang

QINGHAI

A
Golmud

Xining

M

Takster

Lanzhou

T I B E T AU TO N O M O U S R E G I O N

T S
Nepal India

TIBET
K H

D

Darlag (1)

A

N

G

Chamdo (1)

A

Lhasa

Chigdril O Pema Ngaba (12) Serthar Dzamthang Dranggo Kardze (1) Tawu (2) Chengdu SICHUAN
Artwork: Catherine Quine. Thanks to Tibet Justice for mapping data.

Shigatse Gyantse

M

Ü

Bhutan
YUNNAN

Chinese Named Provinces and Autonomous Regions Traditional Tibetan Regions Self Immolations (#) Border of Tibet Protests since January 2012 Bangladesh

Burma

China

China's repressive policies over the 60 years since it occupied Tibet, and the severe crackdown that followed plateau-wide Uprisings in 2008, have created a crisis in Tibet, provoking an unprecedented wave of self-immolations by Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople. In January 2012 a new wave of large-scale protests broke out with demonstrators calling for freedom in Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama. Chinese security forces responded to these peaceful protests by opening fire on demonstrators, killing at least six Tibetans and seriously injuring many more. The self-immolations and protests of 2011 and 2012 have been primarily centered in eastern Tibet, an area with a strong history of dissent despite China’s intense and systematic crackdown. Since widespread popular protests in 2008 the area has been flooded with armed troops and virtually closed off from the world. Many monasteries have been all but shut down and Tibetans are routinely harassed by the authorities in the streets, in their workplaces and in their homes. To date there have been 20 self-immolations; 19 since March 2011, 7 since January 2012. At least 1 fatal. As Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule continues, Beijing has tightened security and embarked on a major propaganda drive to paint self-immolation as a form of 'terrorism'. However, as Tenzin Dorjee, leading Tibet activist and Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet said, “Tibetans who have set themselves on fire in protest were exemplary community members and even widely respected Tibetan leaders who displayed courage and integrity in their final acts of defiance — qualities of character far beyond the reach of the Chinese bureaucrats and officials who attempt to demonize them from Beijing.” China’s flagrant disregard for fundamental human rights and its cruel and systematic assault on the Tibetan people has to be condemned by global leaders. The scale of this crisis and China's continued unwillingness to acknowledge concern warrants a strong international response (see back page for demands). This report summarises instances of self-immolation in Tibet since Feburary 2009, and the unfolding crisis in eastern Tibet since March 2011.

4 February Three self-immolations in Phu-hu, Serthar
It is reported that three Tibetans self-immolated in Phu-hu township, Serthar; one is believed to have died immediately and two are still alive with serious injuries. The two who reportedly survived are Tsering, around 60 years old, and Kyaring, around 0 years old; the person believed to have died has so far not been identified. Eye witnesses say that they were heard shouting slogans calling for “Unity of the Tibetan people”.

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“Until [our]indemands are met, there is no chance that the protests Tibet will stop. You, communist Chinese, come and arrest me. ”
26 January 2012 Fatal Shooting in Ngaba
Urgen, a 20-year old man, was killed after Chinese police fired into a crowd that had gathered to protest against the arrest of a local Tibetan named Tharpa, who had openly put up posters demanding freedom in Tibet and the Dalai Lama be allowed to return. Tharpa’s posters stated, “Until [our] demands are met, there is no chance that the protests in Tibet will stop. You, communist Chinese, come and arrest me.” He is believed to have also included his name and photo of himself. Local people gathered to try and prevent the police from taking Tharpa away, whilst shouting slogans, and saying his arrest would provoke a mass protest. The police responded by opening fire on the crowd. The whereabouts and well-being of Tharpa are not known. After the incident, large numbers of Tibetans from surrounding areas were reported to be converging on Barma town.

Text from the leaflet distributed by Tharpa (pictured left).

18 & 19 January 2012 Peaceful protest in Pema 25 January 2012 Solo protest in Lhasa
Namkha Gyaltsen, aged 25 from Golog, was arrested near the Barkhor for distributing leaflets that contained slogans for the swift return of the Dalai Lama and freedom for Tibet. About 200 Tibetans including monks and laypeople gathered in Pema to protest against Chinese rule. They carried pictures of the Dalai Lama and shouted slogans. Later on the same day leaflets warning that more Tibetans were prepared to set fire to themselves were posted and scattered in the town. The following day Chinese security forces surrounded the monasteries and many of the protesters fled for fear of being detained. It is not clear how many have been detained.

23 & 24 January 2012 Tibetan demonstrators shot dead in Drango and Serthar
Chinese security forces opened fire on unarmed Tibetan demonstrators in Drango and Serthar; at least three Tibetans were killed, including 49 year old Dawa Dragpa, and many more injured. Daily peaceful protests continued in Ngaba prompted by the response of Chinese forces to Lobsang Jamyang’s self-immolation and beating on 14 January.

At the funeral of Dawa Dragpa, local Tibetans and monks displayed his photo with text that reads “Tibetan hero from Serthar, Dawa Dragpa, who died on Jan. 24. May he be blessed”. 

8 January 2012 Lama Sopa self-immolates in Darlag 14 January 2012 Lobsang Jamyang self-immolates in Ngaba; Chinese Police open fire
Lobsang Jamyang, a lay Tibetan, set light to himself and later died in Ngaba. It is reported that while Chinese Police extinguished the flames they violently beat Lobsang and then removed his body. Tibetan eye witnesses became distressed and a spontaneous protest took place in which a large crowd tried to retrieve the dying man. More police arrived and used tear gas and opened fire on the crowd. At least two people were shot and others were beaten. Lama Sopa, a highly respected monk from Golog, self-immolated and died at the scene. Before he set himself ablaze he distributed leaflets in which he wrote that he believed “Tibetans should not lose their determination. The day of happiness will come for sure. The Dalai Lama will live long and Tibetans should not lose track of their path”. In anaudio recording, made before his protest, Lama Sopa urged Tibetans to “unite and work together to build a strong and prosperous Tibetan nation”. His message, which surfaced after his death, called on Tibetans in Tibet and in exile to be strong and to preserve Tibetan culture and language. Lama Sopa, a well respected leader in the local community, founded an orphanage and a retirement home for about 100 elderly Tibetans. Locals described his death as being a “great loss for Tibet”. After his death Chinese authorities at first refused to hand over Lama Sopa’s body to his relatives. In protest hundreds of Tibetans forced the Chinese authorities to return his body so traditional rites of passage could take place. Thousands of Tibetans later gathered, defying the intense security clampdown to honour the respected religious leader. In his audio message he says: “This is the twenty-first century, and this is the year in which so many Tibetan heroes have died. I am sacrificing my body both to stand in solidarity with them in flesh and blood, and to seek repentance through this highest tantric honour of offering one’s body. This is not to seek personal fame or glory... I am taking this action neither for myself nor to fulfill a personal desire nor to earn an honour... To all my spiritual brothers and sisters, and the faithful ones living elsewhere: You must unite and work together to build a strong and prosperous Tibetan nation in the future. This is the sole wish of all the Tibetan heroes.” Read the full transcript here.

6 January 2012 Two Tibetan monks self-immolate in Ngaba:
Tsultrim and Tennyi, both around 20 years of age, self-immolated. The protest took place in the courtyard of a hotel in the centre of Ngaba town. After they set themselves on fire they are said to have run into the street shouting slogans for the return of the Dalai Lama. Tennyi, who is believed to be a monk from Kirti monastery, died on 6 January and Tsultrim, a lay person, died on 7 January.

1 December 2011 Tenzin Phuntsog selfimmolates in Chamdo:
Tenzin Phuntsog, a former monk, set himself on fire in Chamdo, Central Tibet. He was hospitalized with serious injuries but died on 6 December.

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act of protest “ Her ultimatepubliclynonviolent respectsgalvanised the entire community to openly and offer their and solidarity in spite of China’s military clampdown in the region. ”

A Tibetan attending the funeral of Palden Choetso.

Between 3 & 25 October Six Tibetans self-immolate
Six Tibetans (four monks, one former monk and one nun) self immolated; five in Ngaba and one in Kardze. In five separate incidents Kalsang Wangchuk (17), Khaying (18) and Choephel (19), Norbu Dramdul (19), Tenzin Wangmo (20), and Dawa Tsering (8) set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. All are reported to have called for freedom for Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama. Four of them died at the scene or shortly after their protest. The whereabouts and well-being of Kalsang Wangchuk remain unknown, while Dawa Tsering is believed to be receiving treatment from monks at his monastery in Kardze.

3 November 2011 Palden Choetso self-immolates in Tawu 21 November 2011 Two monks detained
Lobsang Gyatso, 42, and Losang Gendun, 48, two senior monks from Kirti monastery were arrested. There current whereabouts and wellbeing are uncertain. Palden Choetso, a 5 year-old Tibetan nun from Ganden Jangchup Choeling Nunnery, set fire to herself and died. Dramatic footage of Palden’s self-immolation and her funeral, which was attended by thousands of Tibetans, was smuggled out of Tibet. The footage shows her standing upright with her entire body engulfed in flames as she shouts “Tibetans will reunite soon” and calls for basic human rights in Tibet. Her body was taken by local Tibetans to the nearby monastery. Nuns from Palden Choetso’s nunnery led a protest calling for Tibet’s freedom and thousands of Tibetans took part in a candle light vigil before her funeral. Footage of these extraordinary events can be viewed at http://bcove.me/jd86m0z (Warning: graphic footage).

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A banner depicting the Dalai Lama is unfurled in Serthar, 1 October 2011

1 October 2011 Tibetans in Serthar unfurl a large Dalai Lama banner
A banner with a photo of the Dalai Lama and the banned Tibetan national flag was unfurled, while around 100 or more Tibetans began to gather in the main square as leaflets were distributed, which read: “Tibetans should not fall asleep under Communist rule. Stand up for the freedom of religion, language, and identity. We do not have fundamental human rights, the freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the freedom to use our language, or freedom of the press. We should fight for those freedoms. Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama, victory to Tibet, victory to Tibet!”

August 2011 Three monks sentenced
Three Kirti monks were imprisoned for between 10 and 1 years for “intentional homicide” linked to Phuntsok Jarutsang’s death. There is no evidence that the three monks had any involvement in Phuntsok’s solitary act of self-immolation or subsequent death, other than possibly seeking to protect him from further harm before he died in hospital. One of the monks sentenced, Lobsang Tsondru, is Phuntsok’s uncle.

15 August 2011 Tsewang Norbu selfimmolates in Tawu
Tsewang Norbu, 29, a monk from Nyitso monastery, Tawu, self-immolated. Tsewang Norbu doused himself and drank some petrol and then lit himself on fire. Eyewitnesses heard him shout, “we Tibetan people want freedom” and “let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet”. Tsewang Norbu died at the scene.

26 September 2011 Two young monks self-immolate in Ngaba
Lobsang Kalsang and Lobsang Konchok, both 18 and from Kirti monastery, set fire to themselves. They waved the banned Tibetan flag, and called for religious freedom. Both these young monks are relatives of Phuntsok Jarutsang, who selfimmolated on 16 March 2011. The well-being and whereabouts of the two young monks are currently unclear but they are believed to be in separate hospitals.

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6 – 30 June 2011 Multiple peaceful protests in Kardze July 2011 Tibetan monks sentenced in Kardze
A number of young Tibetans were sentenced for taking part in peaceful protests, including a man who was sentenced to three years and three nuns who had protested in June. On 12 July two young schoolgirls were detained and severely beaten. Li Daoping, Kardze Prefecture Party Secretary, announced “for anyone who dare to undermine the stability, we must not be soft and resolutely combat them. We should firmly smash separatist activities, firmly protect social stability and make an effort to equally develop all nationalities”. At least 19 separate protests, sometimes up to three events in a single day, were reported in Kardze during this time. Some were solo, others by small groups. Protesters typically threw leaflets in the air and shouted slogans calling for freedom in Tibet, the return of the Dalai Lama, and the release of political prisoners. In each case the authorities reacted with severe beatings and protesters were removed by truck. On 24 June it was reported that police had opened fire with rubber bullets on peaceful demonstrators. Details of injuries are not clear. Over 60 Tibetans in and around Kardze town had been detained by the end of June and the well-being and whereabouts of many is not known.

3 May – 14 June 2011 Compulsory ‘re-education’
Special Police remained stationed in Kirti monastery and armed soldiers occupied a residential compound next to the monastery. Security cameras and sound-recording devices were installed in the monks’ rooms and food and supplies were allowed in only once a week. Monks were given compulsory ‘re-education sessions’. On 17 May two women were released after 25 days in detention. Their heads had been shaved, and they had been beaten so badly that they were unable to look after themselves. In late May, reports emerged that some of the 00 monks removed from Kirti monastery on 21 April had been returned to their families. Other reports stated that hundreds of monks had left Kirti monastery in recent months due to the security crackdown and the patriotic re-education campaign making religious practice difficult or impossible. Two Kirti monks, Losang Dargye, 1, and Konchok Tsultrim, , were sentenced to three-year prison terms.

6 July 2011 Heavy security around the Dalai Lama’s birthday
Despite heavy security restrictions thousands of Tibetans in Tawu bravely celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday with mass incenseburning and offerings to illegal photographs of him.

Protest in Lhasa:
Two monks from Dargye, Kham, demonstrated in Lhasa on 22 June by shouting slogans in the Barkhor area. This was the first known demonstration of its kind in Lhasa since 2008; throughout this time the city has been under lockdown with a climate of fear. One of the monks, Tashi Tsewang, 19, was detained almost immediately and the whereabouts and identity of the other monk are not known.

People’s Armed Police gather in Ngaba town, after protests following the funeral of Phuntsok, March 2011 7

April 2011 Mass removal of monks from Kirti Monastery; two Tibetans killed
Thousands of Chinese armed troops were stationed inside the monastery preventing monks from moving freely. Further peaceful protests were staged in the Ngaba area; the first by three lay Tibetans who shouted for the “Self-government of Tibet”. The protesters were beaten and one later died. In reponse to his death a large-scale protest took place. Hundreds of lay people kept vigil at the gates of Kirti monastery blockading the inner entrance. Armed police and soldiers tried to break through by beating Tibetans and setting dogs on them. Monks were interrogated, sometimes beaten, and threatened by a high-ranking official that he would ‘destroy their very way of life’ if they did not respond to orders. Groups of security forces stepped up patrols of the monastery interrogating and sometimes beating the monks. Lay Tibetans were subject to house to house searches, neighboring monasteries were issued with restriction orders, and troops also arrived in surrounding nomadic areas. On 20 and 21 April about 800 Chinese Officials, armed forces and police entered Kirti monastery to forcibly quell unrest and opposition. Monks not complying with forced questioning were severely beaten and tortured. On the night of 21 April more than 300 monks were forcibly removed. Lay Tibetans who had been keeping vigil at the monastery gates attempted to stop the removal of the monks; they were severely beaten; two elderly Tibetans were killed. All communication networks were shut down and all movement in and out of Ngaba was heavily restricted. Foreigners and media were banned from the area.

Hundreds of lay people and monks attend Phuntsok's funeral, March 2011

From 17 March 2011 Heavy security at Kirti Monastery:
On 18 March thousands of Tibetans attended Phuntsok Jarutsang’s cremation and in the days that followed security intensified in and around Ngaba. Regular religious programmes at Kirti Monastery were suspended and a harsh ‘patriotic re-education’ campaign was launched. Numerous monks were arrested including two of Phuntsok’s family members on suspicion of involvement in Phuntsok’s self-immolation. Tibetans in a neighbouring county staged a solidarity protest; at least four Tibetans were arrested. Upper Middle School students held solidarity hunger strikes, which later led to them facing intense harassment: students’ textbooks and other reading materials were confiscated, and any books not approved were burnt. Students were not allowed to return homes during the summer vacation.

16 March 2011 Phuntsok selfimmolates in Ngaba
Phuntsok Jarutsang, 20, self-immolated in Ngaba on the anniversary of major protests by hundreds Tibetans in 2008 during which Chinese forces fired on protesters, killing ten Tibetans and injuring many more. Phuntsok died on 17 March.

27 February 2009 Tapey self-immolates in Ngaba
Tapey, a monk in his 20s from Kirti Monastery, walked through Ngaba then set fire to himself. As he burned he held up a home-made Tibetan flag and a photo of the Dalai Lama. Tapey was shot by People’s Armed Police and fell to the ground, when PAP doused the flames and took him away. His current well-being and whereabouts remain unknown.

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The global Tibet movement demands that the Chinese government acknowledge the growing crisis and immediately address Tibetan grievances before more lives are lost.

We call on our Governments to:
i. Publicly condemn China's use of force against unarmed Tibetan protesters. ii. Convey to China in the strongest terms that it must halt its violent crackdown immediately, and withdraw military and security forces from all areas. All Tibetans that have been detained should be released, and those injured be able to obtain medical help without fear of arrest. Call on China to cease all actions and policies that are contributing to the tensions, unrest and self-immolations in Tibet; to allow peaceful protest and to respond positively to the calls of Tibetans for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama. iii. Urgently seek to send diplomats to affected Tibetan areas, and demand from China assurances that foreign journalists will be allowed unfettered access to the Tibet Autonomous Region (including during the closure of the TAR from late February to mid-March) and Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan. iv. Vigorously pursue actions in appropriate international forums that will focus the attention of the government of the People’s Republic of China on the severity of the situation in Tibet.

Place Names in Chinese: Tibetan placenames have been used throughout this document. Below is a list of the equivalent Chinese names. County = Xian in Chinese TAP = Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture Ngaba, Amdo (Chinese: Aba TAP, Sichuan) Dzamthang, Ngaba, Amdo (Chinese: Rangtang County, Aba TAP, Sichuan) Drango, Kardze, Kham (Chinese: Luhuo County, Ganzi TAP, Sichuan) Serthar, Kardze, Kham (Chinese: Seda County, Ganzi TAP, Sichuan) Barkham, Ngaba, Kham (Chinese: Ma’erkang County, Aba TAP, Sichuan) Pema, Amdo (Chinese: Baima County, Guolo TAP, Qinghai) Darlag, Golog, Amdo (Dari County, Guolo TAP, Qinghai) For an unformatted version of this document click HERE

The International Tibet Network is a global coalition of 180 Tibet groups dedicated to campaigning non-violently to restore the rights that Tibetans lost when China occupied Tibet sixty years ago. The Network was created to strengthen individual member organisations and to make the Tibet movement as a whole more effective by coordinating powerful strategic campaigns on behalf of the Tibetan people.

www.tibetnetwork.org www.standupfortibet.org

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