Former monk sacrifices himself for Tibet

Kunbey - taken before his death
25th December 2017

Kunbey is one of at least six Tibetans to have set himself on fire in Tibet in 2017

A young, former monk carried out a self-immolation protest in eastern Tibet on the evening of Saturday 23 December. Kunbey, who was around 30 years old, had previously been a monk at Kirti monastery and set himself on fire near the main gate of Kirti Monastery around 6pm local time.

Kunbey was originally from Chah village in Ngaba County and enrolled at the nearby Kirti Monastery at a young age.  He later left the monastery and around a year ago had moved to Meruma village (also in Ngaba County) with the intention of getting married.  One of his brothers remains a monk at Kirti Monastery.

A short video, which has been circulating on social media, shows the burning body filmed from a distance, while a women’s voice in the background can be heard chanting: “Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso, khekyi thukjey sikgoe” (Your Holiness the Dalai Lama, kindly take care of him).

Security and armed police quickly arrived at the scene and took away the body.  They even cleaned the site where the self-immolation had taken place in order to erase any trace of the protest.

Kunbey was taken to a hospital in Barkham, a neighbouring county, but he succumbed to his injuries early the next morning, Sunday 24 December.  He was immediately cremated and the ashes were given to his family.  However, his father, Gya Kyab, was detained as the authorities claimed that the family owed tens of thousands of yuan for Kunbey’s medical expenses.

All the shops and restaurants in Ngaba county have been closed during 24 and 25 December as a mark of solidarity with Kunbey and his family.

Kunbey is the sixth Tibetan recorded as having carried out a self-immolation protest in Tibet this year. Last month, Tenga, a 63-year-old monk, set himself on fire in neighbouring Kardze County. 

Since 2009 over 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the occupation, human rights abuses and restrictions on Tibet’s religion and culture. The majority of these protests have been fatal.

Parting words

Kunbey leaves behind a song which he recorded on the social messaging app Wechat:

“I am nowhere and leaving

You young people gathered here

Stay young and happy

Don’t fear of losing unity and be happy

I am nowhere and leaving

Friends since childhood

Don’t lose your smile

Don’t lose your jokes and laughter“

Information and translation provided by Tibet Watch


Across Tibet, political prisoners are being held in detention centres and prisons, often hidden from the world and at risk of torture and ill-treatment. Help us put pressure Chinese officials to reveal their location, and push for their release.