Eleventh Tibetan - second nun - dies after setting fire to herself

3rd November 2011

A Tibetan nun, Palden Choetso (1), 35 years old, has died after setting herself on fire on the Chume Bridge in the centre of Tawu, Kandze Autonomous Prefecture, Eastern Tibet (Ch. Bing He Lu Road, Daofu, Garzi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province), at 12:40 pm (Tibet local time) today. Palden Choetso set fire to herself at the same place as the monk Tsewang Norbu - who also died - set fire to himself in August (2). Palden Choetso is the eleventh confirmed self-immolation in Tibet this year (3), and the second woman to set fire to herself. Palden Choetso was from Geden Choeling Nunnery, Tawu, Kandze Autonomous Prefecture, Eastern Tibet and had been a nun for 15 years.

Palden Choetso drank petrol, doused herself with it and then set herself on fire. She was heard calling out: “Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Let the Dalai Lama Return to Tibet”. Police carrying metal batons reportedly prevented people standing nearby from helping her. She is believed to have died at the scene and her body was taken to the local monastery, Nyitso Monastery. Monks, people from the Tawu town and nuns from Geden Choeling Nunnery have gathered at Nyitso Monastery where there are prayers and chanting for Palden Choetso.

The internet in Tawu has now been cut off and there are restrictions on movement into and out of the town. The People’s Armed Police have been in the area since Tsewang Norbu’s self-immolation in August and so were on hand to station themselves outside Nyitso Monastery immediately after Palden Choetso’s body was brought there.

More than 40 Tibetans have now set themselves on fire in protest at the repressive Chinese occupation of their country. See the full list.

Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said:

“This latest self-immolation clearly demonstrates that Tibetans will continue to demand freedom regardless of the cost to themselves. China must realise that these extraordinary calls for freedom cannot be stamped out.

“The courage and determination of these individuals to make sure that the world knows about the situation in Tibet deserves a response from each and every one of us. The international community – the public, the media, businesses, governments - must let China know that we hold the Chinese regime accountable for repressive policies in Tibet and that we stand beside Tibetans in demanding freedom for Tibet. Only an end to China’s occupation will bring about the realisation of Tibetan rights.”


Notes to Editor

1) http://freetibet.org/newsmedia/palden-choetso

2) http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/monk-dies-after-setting-himself-fire-protest-tibet

3) Summary of the escalating trend of self-immolation and protest in Tibet

Self-immolation is not a traditional form of protest in Tibet and has evolved out of Tibetans’ determination to draw international attention to persistent and brutal violations of Tibetans’ human rights by the occupying Chinese regime.

All those who have self-immolated this year are Buddhist monks, former monks and one nun. Six of those who set fire to themselves have died; the well-being and whereabouts of the other five remain unknown.

Eight of the eleven self-immolations have taken place in Ngaba Town, Eastern Tibet (Chinese: Aba Town, Aba County, Aba Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province), an area that has regularly seen tensions between local Tibetans and occupying Chinese state actors. In March 2008, 13 Tibetans were shot dead by Chinese security personnel. The first self-immolation this year took place on the third anniversary of that massacre.

China’s disproportionate response to that first self-immolation in March this year has included the deployment of large numbers of paramilitary People’s Armed Police to the area, arbitrary arrests, armed road blocks, house searches, interruption of internet, mobile and telephone communications. An estimated three hundred monks were forcibly removed from Kirti monastery, an enforced programme of ‘patriotic re-education’ ran at the monastery from March until August. Six monks have been sentenced in connection to the self-immolations in trials, regarded as unsafe by Free Tibet.

In Ngaba, internet cafes have been closed, internet and SMS services remain cut. The area is closed to foreign journalists and human rights monitors, and Tibetans risk severe penalties, including life imprisonment, for passing information to external contacts.

These self-immolations are not taking place in isolation, but are part of wider protests. Protests involving several hundred Tibetans took place in Serta Town, Serta County, Kandze prefecture (Chinese: Seda Township, Seda County, Garzi Prefecture, Sichuan) on 1 October 2011, when Chinese personnel removed a large Tibetan flag and a picture of the Dalai Lama that had been hung from a municipal building by a Tibetan.

In Khekor Township, 83 Km from Serta Town, also in Serta County, Kandze Autonomous Prefecture (Chinese: Kege Township, Seda County, Garzi Prefecture, Sichuan), protests took place on 15 and 16 October 2011; two Tibetans were shot by Chinese security services during the protest, outside the local police station, on 16 October 2011. In 2008, Chinese People’s Armed Police opened fire on protesters in Khekor Township, shooting two Tibetans, one of whom died.

Chronology of self-immolations

16 March 2011: Phuntsog (21 yrs old; died), Ngaba: http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/160311-monk-self-immolation

15 August 2011: Tsewang Norbu (29 yrs old; died), Tawu, Kardze (Ch. Garzi), Sichuan : http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/monk-dies-after-setting-himself-fire-protest-tibet

26 September 2011: Lobsang Kalsang & Lobsang Konchok (18-19 yrs old; well-being & whereabouts unknown), Ngaba : http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/two-more-tibetan-monks-set-themselves-alight

3 October 2011: Kalsang Wangchuk (17-18 yrs old; well-being & whereabouts unknown), Ngaba, http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/fifth-monk-self-immolates

7 October 2011: Choepel, 19 and Khayang, 18; both are believed to have now died from their injuries, Ngaba, http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/two-teenagers-set-themselves-fire-rumours-many-more-ready

15 October 2011: Norbu Dathul (19 yrs old, well-being & whereabouts unknown), Ngaba, http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/photograph-tibetan-monk-following-self-immolation-emerges-eighth-tibetan-sets-fire-himself

17 October 2011: Tenzin Wangmo, nun (20 yrs old; died at the scene), Ngaba, http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/unrest-tibet-widens-two-tibetans-shot-and-nun-dies-after-setting-fire-herself

25 October 2011: Dawa Tsering (30’s, whereabouts and well-being unknown) Kandze Town, http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/today-self-immolation-spreads-different-area-tibet-0

Free Tibet is an international campaigning organisation that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. We campaign for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.

For further information and interviews please contact Free Tibet’s Director Stephanie Brigden
E: stephanie@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)20 7324 4605
M: +44 (0)7971 479515