Self-immolation protest follows intimidation in Tawu

21st May 2015

Update 22/5/2015: Sources confirm that self immolation protester Tenzin Gyatso has died.

At around 3 pm (local time) on 21 May 2015, authorities informed Tenzin Gyatso's family of his death. Two of his family members were asked to collect his remains. No further details available as his family members are too afraid to relay information.

Protests in Eastern Tibet

35-year-old Tenzin Gyatso set himself alight at around 8pm (local time) on 20 May 2015 close to government offices in Tawu County, eastern Tibet. Police immediately arrived at the scene and took him away. His body showed signs of severe burns but because of heavy restrictions on communications in the area it is not known whether he survived or died. A few days prior to his protest, the area had been subject to intensive campaigning by officials intended to discourage and intimidate Tibetans in the area who might be planning celebrations for the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader. A large number of armed police were also deployed in the area and local Tibetans were arrested in spot checks. Monk Tsewang Choephel was arrested on 18 May and locals believe his arrest was connected to his presence at the self-immolation of a fellow monk in Tawu in December 2014.

Shooting in Tibet

In July 2013, Tibetans gathered to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday in Tawu were fired upon by security forces, causing at least seven severe injuries, with many subsequent arrests and reports of torture in detention.


Local Tibetans believe Tenzin Gyatso set himself ablaze mainly to protest the massive deployment of security forces in the area. He is the fourth person to set themselves alight in protest in 2015. After a single self-immolation in 2009, the wave of Tibetan self-immolations protests began in Ngaba County in 2011 with a protest on the anniversary of the fatal shooting of 13 protesters in 2008.

Take Action

Tibetans continue to set themselves alight in protest against China’s rule in Tibet and China’s response has been to inflict severe punishments. The ongoing crisis in Tibet demands action from world leaders, who must put pressure on China to recognise Tibetans’ desire for freedom. Email your country’s foreign minister now and ask them to speak up for Tibet.