Unrest in Tibet widens

17th October 2011

Protests in Tibet are spreading. Two Tibetans were shot by Chinese security personnel during a protest against Chinese occupation yesterday and a Tibetan nun died today after setting fire to herself in protest at Chinese policies in Tibet, the ninth Tibetan to have self-immolated this year (1).

Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said:

“The unrest in Tibet is escalating and widening. The number and frequency of self-immolations is unprecedented. Tenzin Wangmo is the ninth Tibetan to self-immolate and the first woman. Information from Tibet suggests there are more who are willing to give their lives determined to draw global attention to the persistent and brutal violations Tibetans suffer under Chinese occupation. The acts of self-immolation are not taking place in isolation, protests have been reported in the surrounding region and calls for wider protests are growing. China has already responded with force in one instance we have grave concerns that greater force may be deployed if protests spread.”

Two Tibetans were shot by Chinese security services during a protest on 16 October outside the local police station in Khekor Township, Serthar County, Kandze prefecture (Chinese: Kege Township, Seda County, Garzi prefecture, Sichuan) (2). The Tibetans who were shot have been named as Dawa and Druklo; one was shot in the leg, the other in their torso. It is not known why security personnel opened fire, nor are there further details about the wellbeing and whereabouts of Dawa and Druklo, but it has been reported that they were taken from the scene by the local community.

Protests have taken place this year across a broadening area in eastern Tibet, from Ngaba - scene of eight self-immolations, to Tawu – where the second self-immolation took place, Serthar Town - scene of protests on 1 October, and Khekor Township where yesterday’s shootings took place.

It has been reported that people are distributing envelopes in restaurants and shops in Tibet which contain a call for action on 19 October.

Tenzin Wangmo set fire to herself at 1pm local time today (17 October 2011) outside Dechen Chokorling Nunnery (also known as Mame Nunnery), three kilometers outside Ngaba Town, Ngaba County, eastern Tibet (Chinese: Aba Town, Aba County, Aba Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province), where seven Tibetans have already set fire to themselves this year. Tenzin Wangmo called for religious freedom in Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama as she set fire to herself; she died at the scene. 20-year-old Tenzin Wangmo is the first woman in Tibet known to have set fire to herself.

See the full list of self-immolations


Notes to Editor

1) Summary of the escalating trend of self-immolation in Tibet

Self-immolation is not a traditional form of protest in Tibet and appears to have evolved out of Tibetans’ desperation 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 now, one nun. Four of those who set fire to themselves have died; the well-being and whereabouts of the other five remain unknown.

Eight of the nine 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. The number of monks in the monastery has fallen from an estimated 2,500 in March to an estimated 600 in October.

In Ngaba, internet cafes have been closed 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.

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

2) Protests took place in Serthar on 15 and 16 October 2011. The township has a population of 130 families. In 2008, Chinese People’s Armed Police opened fire on protesters in Khekor Township, shooting two Tibetans, one of whom died. Khekor Township is 83km from Serthar Town where protests took place on 1 October 2011.

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