Tibetan man dies of self-immolation protest amid heightened repression

SWAT team with full riot gear performs drills to intimidate local Tibetans
SWAT team with full riot gear performs drills to intimidate local Tibetans

A Tibetan man from Khangsar township in Tawu (Ch: (Daofu) County in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, passed away after his peaceful solo self-immolation protest to challenge the continuous and yet intensified repression in the region and Tibet at large.

As per the information received by Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), at around 8:00 pm on 20 May 2015, Tenzin Gyatso, 34, died after setting himself ablaze near a bridge close to a Chinese government office. Soon after his self-immolation, armed police arrived at the scene and started to beat the Tibetans who had gathered near the site and were shouting slogans, and also arrested a few of them.

On 21 May, local authorities contacted Tenzin Gyatso’s family and informed them about the death of Gyatso; they also told his family to come to Dhartsedo (Kangding) town possibly for interrogation as to the cause of the self-immolation. Local Tibetans assume that the chances of the Chinese government handing over Gyatso’s body to his family members are dim, as earlier when Wangchen Dolma, a nun from the same area self-immolated, the Chinese government and police secretly cremated her in an electric machine without handing over her body to the family or even informing them.

Tenzin Gyatso, father of four, died after self-immolation protest
Tenzin Gyatso, father of four, died after self-immolation protest

Tenzin Gyatso was married to Sonam Dolma. The couple has four children, namely Topden, Thupten, Tsering Tsomo and Tsewang Gyatso.

As of now, the Chinese government has deployed security forces at every road intersection; checking every Tibetan who passes by and many a times arresting Tibetans by accusing them of displaying wrong or hostile attitude.

The cause of Gyatso’s self-immolation is that of forced ‘patriotic education’ campaign which was carried out in every family by local Chinese government when the Tibetans in the area were planning to hold a grand celebration of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. Local Tibetans were subjected to intense pressure and given ultimatums to follow official orders or face consequences.

In the last one week, the Chinese government has started to carry out the same reeducation campaign once again in the area. They also announced that activities related to the celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday and praying for those who have self-immolated are nothing but acts to split the nation. Each family in the area were asked to promise and sign under force the pledge that they will not celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday and also not pray for the victims of self-immolations. However, when local Tibetans refused to do so, the Chinese police arrested an unknown number of Tibetans and deployed a large number of police forces in public areas to psychologically instill fear into the hearts of Tibetans. They also randomly interrogated local Tibetans. The Tibetans in the area are of the opinion that Gyatso’s self-immolation was a protest to challenge the repressive Chinese policy over Tibet and Tibetans.

Chinese People's Armed Police force in Tawu County
Chinese People’s Armed Police force in Tawu County

Over all, six Tibetans from the area – Tsewang Norbu (15/8/2011), Palden Choetso(3/11/2011), Wangchen Dolma(11/6/2013), Trinley Namgyal(15/4/2014), Kalsang Yeshi(13/12/2014) and Tenzin Gyatso(20/5/2015) have immolated themselves since 2011 in order to peacefully resist China’s repressive and discriminatory policy over Tibet.

Since 2009, a total of 139 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze in different parts of Tibet as a result of violent and repressive Chinese policy. The Chinese government has so far failed to account for the death, destruction and loss caused by the series of self-immolation protests inside Tibet.

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