February 12th: Another self-immolation, The Guardian sneaks into Ngaba

Via RFA, the sad news of yet another nun self-immolating:

A teenage Tibetan Buddhist nun set herself on fire on Saturday in the latest self-immolation against Chinese rule as protesters torched government buildings in southwestern Sichuan province, exile sources said.

Tenzin Choedron, aged 18 and from the Mamo Nunnery in the Ngaba (Aba, in Chinese) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, shouted slogans against the Chinese government as she was burning before security forces hauled her away, the sources said, quoting local contacts.

Choedron was the 23rd Tibetan—and the third nun—to have self-immolated since February 2009 when Beijing stepped up a clampdown on monasteries and rounded up hundreds of protesting monks.

“She did not die on the spot, but soldiers and police came immediately and took her away, towards Barkham [Ma’erkang, in Chinese, county],” monks Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering said from India’s hill town Dharamsala, where Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama lives.

“After that, soldiers surrounded the nunnery and sealed it off, and nothing more is known of the situation inside,” the monks said in a statement to RFA.

Choedron was described by local Tibetans as quiet, hardworking and courageous.

“She followed the rules, studied hard, and got excellent grades. She was smart as well as brave,” Yeshe and Tsering said.

There seems to be some indication that she died shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Watts somehow sneaked through the security cordon and managed to file this report from Ngaba town:

Every 20 metres along the main road of Aba, the remote town on the Tibetan plateau in that is at the heart of the current wave of protests, police officers and communist officials wearing red armbands look out for potential protesters. Dozens more paramilitaries sit in ranks outside shops and restaurants in an intimidating show of force.

Outsiders are not supposed to see this. The Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to block access to Aba, in north-western Sichuan, which is home to more than half the 23 monks, nuns and lay Buddhists who have set fire to themselves in acts of defiance aimed at the Chinese Communist party in the past two years.

The authorities have blocked internet and mobile phone signals. Checkpoints have been set up on surrounding roads to keep outside observers, particularly foreign journalists, away.

But after a 10-hour drive through mountain valleys and snow-covered plains, the Guardian was able to get into Aba and witness how the authorities are trying to quell dissent with security, propaganda and “re-education” campaigns. These tactics have had little success. Despite flooding Aba with security personnel, the protests continue.

Today, Aba has road blocks, spot checks and a security presence reminiscent of conflict zones in the Middle East or Northern Ireland.

But the violence here is, for the most part, self-inflicted. And the battle is not for territory, but for hearts and minds and beliefs.

Locals are under pressure to show loyalty to the authorities. Chinese flags fly on every building. Posters emphasise the need for stability and harmony to achieve economic development.

A major source of discontent has been the lengthy “re-education campaigns” imposed on monks, who are forced to publicly renounce the Dalai Lama as a reactionary traitor and profess their patriotism and loyalty to China.

“They call it re-education, but in reality it means threats and intimidation. Monks would rather die than accept this,” said Kanyag Tsering, a monk who has been in exile for 13 years. “I am very concerned that if current policies continue unchanged, there will be a rise in self-immolation protest and even more terrifying forms of protest.”

The prospects for calm appear remote. A professor at the Minorities University – who asked to remain anonymous – said the security presence was greater this year than it was during the deadly uprisings of 2008. “There are serious problems in the relationship between Han and Tibetans. It has got worse these past four years,” the professor said.

There’s also a video, located here.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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