January 10th: The Latest on the Self-Immolation Crisis

Two more monks have self-immolated, once again in Ngaba:

Tsultrim and Tenyi, both around 20 years of age, had set their bodies on fire on January 6 at around 2:40 pm Tibet time in the distraught Ngaba region of eastern Tibet, which alone has witnessed ten instances of self-immolations since early last year.

Eyewitness accounts said that the two people, a monk and a layman, were together when they set themselves ablaze.

“Following their self-immolation, all the Tibetan shops and business were closed as a mark of respect and to show solidarity with the family of the two deceased,” the release said.

“However, as in earlier instances, local Tibetans were barred from visiting the families of the deceased to offer their condolences and prayers by the Chinese authorities.”

NYT has a piece on the three latest self-immolations:

Analysts who sympathize with ethnic Tibetans’ criticism of Beijing’s conduct say the recent deaths underscore that the crackdown has failed to quell Tibetans’ demands for greater religious and political latitude. While most suicide victims were young, Sopa, who killed himself Sunday morning in Qinghai Province, was a 42-year-old senior clergyman. Like many Tibetans, he went by one name.

His death indicates that suicide is increasingly accepted as an expression of political opposition among Tibetans and that the government’s response has made it more popular, Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher in Hong Kong for Human Rights Watch, said in a telephone interview.

“We clearly see this form of protest is resonating within the Tibetan community,” he said. “The government is trying to prevent these incidents by strengthening control, but too much repression and control is what provokes these acts.”

China’s government censors have blacked out virtually any mention of the latest suicides, but Tibetans are passing word among themselves.

I can personally confirm that last part- last October I visited a part of Amdo and was repeatedly shown pictures of the self-immolations on the cellphones of local Tibetans. Finally, RFA reports that thousands of Tibetans attended the funeral for Sopa:

Defying a security clampdown, thousands of Tibetans gathered on Monday in a Tibetan region of China’s Qinghai province to honor a respected religious leader who died in a self-immolation protest against rule by Beijing.

“Today, Jan. 9, a few thousand Tibetans from Darlag and Gade (in Chinese, Gande) counties gathered in Darlag town and prayed for the late Sopa Tulku,” said a Tibetan from the area, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Tulku” is a Tibetan honorific term denoting a reincarnate lama, called a “Living Buddha” by Chinese.

“The members of the [local] monasteries and elder members of the Tibetan community decided that the funeral rituals for the late Sopa Tulku, also called Sonam Wangyal, would be performed by Bhayen monastery in Darlag county,” the man said.

Sopa had founded a home for about 100 elderly Tibetans in Gade county and an orphanage in Darlag, the man said.

“Now, those orphans will have no one to look after them. Sopa Tulku’s death is a great loss for Tibet, and especially for Golog,” he added, before his call was cut off.

Sopa was born in Gade and was a respected high-ranking lama of Gade’s Dungkyob monastery, a second Tibetan source in the area said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Following Sopa’s self-immolation, Chinese authorities tightened security in Darlag, deploying additional security forces from the main town of Golog, as posters praising Sopa’s act and calling for a boycott of Chinese goods appeared in the county, sources said.

“Over 50 vehicles carrying [Chinese] security forces have now arrived in Darlag town,” one Tibetan source said.

“The town is full of armed police who are trying to intimidate the local Tibetans,” he said.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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