Former monk dies in self-immolation protest

17th April 2015

Father-of-seven calls for return of Dalai Lama

45-year-old Nyi Kyab died after setting himself alight in Ngaba, eastern Tibet, yesterday morning, 16 April. He had set up an altar on the outside wall of his home, carrying family photographs and pictures of the exiled Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the most senior figures of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyi Kyab called “let His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] return to Tibet” and “free Panchen Rinpoche [the Panchen Lama]” after setting himself on fire. Police removed his body and businesses in the area have been closed by Tibetans as a sign of respect. His was the third self-immolation of 2015 and eight days after that of Tibetan nun Yeshi Khando. The fomer monk (also known as Dam Khar) was recognised as a peacemaker in his local community and was the recipient of a peace award given by 42 monasteries in the Ngaba area.

China rejects Tibetan plan

The fatal protest comes after China's white paper this week, completely rejecting the Dalai Lama’s long-standing “Middle Way” proposal for greater autonomy for Tibetand insisting that he accept Tibet has been a part of China “since antiquity”. The paper followed recent Communist Party announcements in the Tibet Autonomous Region that monks and nuns would be subject to tests of loyalty and that monasteries should fly the Chinese flag (4).

Free Tibet analysis

The link between China’s policies and self-immolation protests couldn’t be clearer. Numbers of self-immolations have diminished significantly in the last year but in the last few weeks we’ve seen further restrictions on religious freedom, further vilification of the Dalai Lama and Beijing’s flat rejection of any proposals from the Tibetan side that could help resolve Tibetan grievances. If China is interpreting the relative lack of protests in 2015 as a sign of Tibetan acquiescence or having won Tibetans over, it is gravely misreading the situation. China’s recent policies make significant unrest in Tibet a real possibility in the near future.

Take action

*NEW ACTION* Contact your foreign minister to ask them to press China to open negotiations with the Dalai Lama's representatives again.