An 81-year-old man known for his commitment to the Tibetan cause for freedom set himself on fire in front of the police station in Kirti Monastery in eastern Tibet at around 5 am on 27 March 2022.
Tibet Watch has learned from two Tibetan sources in exile that the protest was carried out by Tashi Phuntsok, or Taphun, who comes from the Purtsatsang household in division no.3 of the Meruma (Ch: Maierma) pastoral area.
Taphun died after being taken away by the police but it is still not known where they took him, and the circumstances leading up to his death are unclear. His body has not been returned to his family, who are now subjected to intense surveillance, even as they stay at home and say prayers and observe funeral rituals for him.
A year ago, when Taphun turned 80, he had told well-wishers: “Through His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s blessing, the sun of happiness will rise in Tibet. The young [Tibetan youth] must not give up”.
Taphun is the second Tibetan known to have carried out a self-immolation protest this year. At least 159 Tibetans in Tibet have set themselves on fire in protest against the occupation since 2009, with the majority of such protests being fatal.
Epicentre Of Self-Immolation
This latest self-immolation took place in the month of historical significance to the Tibetan freedom struggle. On 10 March every year, as Tibetans in exile and diaspora take to the streets to commemorate the day when Tibetans rose against the Chinese military invasion in front of the Potala Palace in 1959, restrictions are increased across occupied Tibet.
Tibetans in Ngaba, the location of Kirti Monastery, witnessed one of the largest uprisings during Mao Zedong’s campaign of Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Their resistance has grown even more since non-violent protests erupted across Tibet in 2008.
A large number of the self-immolations in Tibet have taken place at Kirti Monastery, including the first case, in 2009. That year, Tapey, a young monk from Kirti Monastery, held up a homemade Tibetan national flag with the Dalai Lama’s photo at its centre and set himself on fire. He would later become the first of a chain of Tibetan self-immolation protests in Ngaba.
Police check-points and preemptive security measures have proliferated since then, often leading to arbitrary detentions of monks from Kirti Monastery.
Due to a continuing crackdown on communication, details about the whereabouts of Taphun’s body remain yet to be ascertained.
Information supplied by Tibet Watch