Self-immolation protests

Phuntsog set himself on fire in protest in 2011
Phuntsog set himself on fire in protest in 2011

Since March 2009, more than 140 people are known to have set themselves on fire inside Tibet to protest against the repressive Chinese occupation. Self-immolation protests peaked in 2012 when more than 80 took place. There have been far fewer since 2013 but they are still a feature of Tibetan resistance.

Although many monks and nuns have set themselves alight, most self-immolation protesters have not been from religious institutions. They include teachers, students and herdsmen, as well as mothers and fathers.

The youngest was just 15 years old.

Video of nun Palden Choetso's protest in November 2011

Palden Choetso self-immolation

Why are Tibetans protesting?

Sangye Dolma self-portrait with a message on her hand
Sangye Dolma self-portrait with a message on her hand

Many of the protesters have shouted slogans while on fire, including calling for the Dalai Lama’s long life and his return to Tibet, for the Panchen Lama to be freed, and for human rights and freedom in Tibet.

Several have urged Tibetans to stay united and protect Tibetan identity, such as Tsering Gyal, a young monk who set himself on fire in November 2013. Before dying he told his companions on the way to the hospital: “Today I self-immolated for reunion of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. My only wish for you is to be united and to work for the preservation of Tibetan language and tradition. If we do these things, Tibetans will be reunited.”

Some protesters have left final written and recorded messages.

Sonam Topgyal, a 27-year-old monk who staged a self-immolation protest in July 2015, left a letter saying that “Chinese authorities repress [Tibetans] with their violent and brutal law, by demolishing our religion, tradition and culture and causing environmental devastation. Meanwhile, people absolutely have no freedom of expression nor can they convey their grievances.”

Sangye Dolma, who set herself on fire in November 2012, left behind a self-portrait photo with the words “Tibet is an independent country” on her hand (pictured).

How does China respond to self-immolation protests?

The Chinese government has responded to the protests with a surge in activity by security forces, a propaganda campaign against the protesters and punishments for protester’s families and communities. Self-immolators who survived their protests have been detained and the whereabouts and condition of many of them is still unknown.

Severe punishments are handed out to those accused of assisting or encouraging the protesters or sharing information abroad. Frequently protesters' bodies are cremated by security forces to prevent families carrying out traditional funeral ceremonies. Local communities are threatened with punishment for holding prayer services or offering support to protesters' families.

China has described the protests as “violent behaviour whose aim is to create an atmosphere of terror” and accused the Dalai Lama of instigating the protests. The Dalai Lama has not called for an end to the protests but has expressed his "sadness" over them and urged the Chinese authorities to "investigate what is the cause of this symptom, of these events".

Details of each confirmed individual self-immolation in Tibet:

Sonam Tso self-immolation March 23 2016

Sonam Tso, 23 March 2016. Read more.

Kalsang Wangdu, 29 February 2016, ...
Tashi Kyi self-immolation

Tashi Kyi, 27 August 2015. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Sonam Topgyal, 9 July 2015. Read more...

Sangy Tso

Sangy Tso, 27 May 2015. Read more.

Tenzin Gyatso

Tenzin Gyatso, 20 May 2015. Read more....

Nyi Kyab

Nyi Kyab, 16 April 2015. Read more.

Yeshi Khando

Yeshi Khando, 8 April 2015. Read more.

Norchuk

Norchuk, 6 March 2015. Read more.

Kalsang Yeshi

Kalsang Yeshi, 24 December 2014. Read more.

Tsepe Kyi

Tsepe Kyi, 22 December 2014. Read more.

Sangyal Khar

Sangyal Khar, 16 December 2014. Read more.

Lhamo Tashi

Lhamo Tashi, 17 September 2014. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Kunchok, 16 September 2014. Read more.

Tinley Namgyal

Tinley Namgyal, 15 April 2014. Read more.

Dolma

Dolma, 29 March 2014. Read more...

Jigme Tenzin

Jigme Tenzin, 16 March 2014. ...

Lobsang Palden

Lobsang Palden, 16 March 2014. Read...

Self-immolation Tibet

Lobsang Dorjee,13 February 2014. Read more.

Phakmo Samdup

Phakmo Samdup, 5 February 2014. Read more.

Tsultrim Gyatso

Tsultrim Gyatso, 19 December 2013. Read more.

Kunchok Tseten

Kunchok Tseten, 3 December 2013. Read more.

Tsering Gyal

Tsering Gyal, 11 November 2013. Read more.

Shichung

Shichung, 28 September 2013. Read more.

Kunchok Sonam

Kunchok Sonam, 20 July 2013. Read more.

Wangchen Dolma

Wangchen Dolma, 11 June 2013. Read more....

Tenzin Sherab

Tenzin Shirab, 27 May 2013. Read more....

Lobsang Dawa

Lobsang Dawa, 24 April 2013. Read more.

Kunchok Woser

Kunchok Woser, 24 April 2013. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Jugtso,16 April 2013. Read more.

Kunchoek Tenzin

Kunchoek Tenzin,26 March 2013. ...

Self-immolation Tibet

Lhamo Kyab, 25 March 2013. Read more....

Kalkyi

Kalkyi, 24 March 2013. Read more.

Lobsang Thokmey

Lobsang Thokmey, 16 March 2013. Read more....

Self-immolation Tibet

Kunchoek Wangmo, 13 March 2013....

Self-immolation Tibet

Sandhag,25 February 2013. Read...

Self-immolation Tibet

Tsesung Kyab,25 February 2013. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Phakmo Dhondup, 24 February 2013. Read more.

Rinchen

Rinchen, 19 February 2013. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Sonam Dhargye,19 February 2013. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Namlha Tsering, 17 February 2013. Read more...

Self-immolation Tibet

Dhukpa Kyar, 13 February 2013. Read more. ...

Lobsang Namgyal

Lobsang Namgyal, 3 February 2013. Read more.

Kunchok Kyab

Kunchok Kyab, 22 January 2013....

Self-immolation Tibet

Jigji Kyab, 19 January 2013. Read more. ...

Self-immolation Tibet

Dupchoek, 18 January 2013....

Tsering Tashi,

Tsering Tashi, 12 January 2013. Read more.

Wanchen Kyi, 16, Dokar Mo township, Eastern Tibet, 9 December 2012, died

Wanchen Kyi, 9 December 2012....

Kunchoek Phelgay

Kunchoek Phelgay, 8 December 2012. ...

Pema Dorjee

Pema Dorjee, 8 December 2012. Read...

Lobsang Gedun

Lobsang Gedun, 3 December 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Sangdak Kyab, 2 December 2012. Read more.

Kunchoek Kyab

Kunchoek Kyab, 30 November 2012. Read more. ...

Self-immolation Tibet

Tsering Namgyal, 29 November 2012. Read more.

Sangay Tashi

Sangay Tashi,27 November 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Wande Khar, 28 November 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Kalsang Kyab, 27 November 2012. Read more....

Gonpo Tsering

Gonpo Tsering, 26 November 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Kunchok Tsering, 26 November 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Wangyal, 26 November 2012. Read more.

Sangye Dolma,

Sangye Dolma, 25 November 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Tamding Dorjee, 23 November 2012. Read more.

Tamdin Kyab

Tamdin Kyab, 22 November 2012. Read more.

Lubum Tsering

Lubum Gyal, 22 November 2012. Read more.

Tsering Dhondup

Tsering Dhondup, 20 November 2012. Read more.

Wangchen Norbu,

Wangchen Norbu, 19 November 2012. Read more. ...

sangduk Tsering

Sangdak Tsering, 17 November 2012. Read more. ...

Chokmo Kyi

Chakmo Kyi, 17 November 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Unknown, 15 November 2012....

Self-immolation Tibet

Tingzin Dolma, 15 November 2012....

Self-immolation Tibet

Nyingchak Boom, 12 November 2012. Read more.

Nyingkar Tashi,

Nyingkar Tashi, 12 November 2012....

Self-immolation Tibet

Gonpo Tsering, 10 November 2012. Read more. ...

Self-immolation Tibet

Jinpa, 8 November 2012. Read more....

Self-immolation Tibet

Tsegye 7 November 2012. Read more. ...

Self-immolation Tibet

Dorjee Kyab, 7 November 2012. Read more....

Dorjee

Dorjee, 7 November 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Samdup, 7 November 2012. Read more....

Tamdin Tso

Tamdin Tso, 7 November 2012. Read more.

Dorje Lungdup

Dorje Lungdup, 4 November 2012. Read more.

Thubwang Kyab

Thubwang Kyab, 26 October 2012. Read more...

Lhamo Tseten

Lhamo Tseten, 26 October 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Tsepo, 25 October 2012. Read more...

Self-immolation Tibet

Tenzin, 25 October 2012. Read more...

Dorjee Rinchen

Dorjee Rinchen, 23 October 2012. Read more.

Dhondup, Labrang

Dhondup, 22 October 2012. Read more.

Lhamo Kyab

Lhamo Kyab, 20 October 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Tamdrin Dorjee, 13 October 2012. Read more.

Sangye Gyatso

Sangye Gyatso, 6 October 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Gudrub, 4 October 2012. Read more. ...

Self-immolation Tibet

Yungdrung, 29 September 2012.

Self-immolation Tibet

Passang Lhamo, 13 September 2012.

Self-immolation Tibet

Lobsang Kalsang, 27 August 2012. Read more....

Lobsang Damchoe, who self-immolated 27 August 2012

Damchoe, 27 August 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Tashi, 13 August 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Lungtok, 13 August 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Jopa, 10 August 2012. Read more.

Dolkar Kyi

Dolkar Kyi, 7 August 2012. Read more.

Lobsang Tsultrim

Lobsang Tsultrim, 6 August 2012. Read more. ...

Lobsang Lobzin

Lobsang Lobzin, 17 July 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Tsewang Dorjee, 7 July 2012. Read more....

Self-immolation Tibet

Dekyi Choezom, 27 June 2012....

Nawang Norpal

Nyawang Norpal, 20 June 2012. Read more.

Tenzin Kaldrup

Tenzin Kaldrup, 20 June 2012. Read more.

Tamdrin Thar

Tamdrin Thar, 15 June 2012. Read more.

Rechok

Rechok, 30 May 2012. Read more.

Dorjee Tseten

Dorjee Tseten, 27 May 2012. Read more.

Dargye,

Dargye, 27 May 2012. Read more.

sonam

Sonam, 19 April 2012. Read more.

Choephak Kyap

Choephak Kyap, 19 April 2012. Read more.

Tenpa Dargye

Tenpa Dargye, 30 March 2012. Read more.

Choemi Palten

Choemi Palten, 30 March 2012. Read more.

Lobsang Sherab, who self-immolated 28 March 2012

Sherab, 28 March 2012. Read more.

Sonam Dargye

Sonam Dargye, 17 March 2012. Read more.

Lobsang tsultrim

Lobsang Tsultrim, 18 March 2012. Read more.

Jamyang Palden

Jamyang Palden, 14 March 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Gepey, 10 March 2012. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Dorjee, 5 March 2012. Read more.

Rinchen

Rinchen, 4 March 2012. Read more.

Tsering Kyi

Tsering Kyi, 3 March 2012. Read more.

Nangdrol

Nangdrol, 19 February 2012. Read more.

Tamchoe Sangpo,

Tamchoe Sangpo, 17 February 2012. Read more.

Lobsang Gyatso

Lobsang Gyatso, 13 February 2012. Read more....

Tenzin Choedon

Tenzin Choedon, 11 February 2012. Read more.

Sonam Rapyang

Sonam Rapyang, 9 February 2012. ...

Rigzin Dorjee

Rigzin Dorjee, 8 February 2012. Read more.

Lobsang Jamyang

Lobsang Jamyang, 14 January 2012. Read more...

Sonam Wangyal,

Sonam Wangyal, 8 January 2012. Read more. ...

Pawo Tennyi

Pawo Tennyi, 6 January 2012. Read more.

Pawo Tsultrim

Pawo Tsultrim, 6 January 2012. Read more.

Tenzin PHuntsog

Tenzin Phuntsog, 1 December 2011. Read more. ...

Palden_Choetso

Palden Choetso, 3 November 2011. Read more.

Dawa Tsering.

Dawa Tsering, 25 October 2011. Read more. ...

Tenzin Wangmo

Tenzin Wangmo, 17 October 2011. Read more. ...

Norbu Dathul

Norbu Dathul, 15 October 2011.

Choephel

Choepel, 7 October 2011. Read more.

Khayang

Khayang, 7 October 2011. Read more.

Kalsang Wangchuk

Kalsang Wangchuk, 3 October 2011. Read more. ...

Lobsang Kalsang

Lobsang Konchok, 26 September 2011. Read more....

Lobsang Kalsang

Lobsang Kalsang, 26 September 2011. Read more....

Tsewang Norbu

Tsewang Norbu, 15 August 2011. Read more...

Phuntsog

Phuntsog, 16 March 2011. Read more.

Self-immolation Tibet

Tabe, February 2009. Read more. ...