16-year-old Tibetan boy self-immolates in India
Father calls protest “heart breaking” but speaks of his pride
16-year-old Tibetan school boy Dorjee Tsering carried out a self-immolation protest in Dehradun, Uttarkhand State, India, yesterday, 29 February. Dorjee Tsering survived the protest but suffered 95% burns to his body and is being treated at a hospital in Delhi.
Dorjee Tsering carried out the protest near an old people’s home after visiting his grandfather. After dousing his body in petrol and setting it alight, he shouted “Bod-Rangzen” (free Tibet ) as he ran engulfed in flames. His family believe he may have been planning the protest for some time. When he was home during an earlier school holiday he had asked them how they would feel if he did something for the Tibetan struggle.
Dorjee Tsering comes from a Tibetan settlement in Manali District, Himachal Pradesh, and is a student in the 10th grade at Mussoorie Tibetan Homes School. His father, Thupten, is currently with him in Delhi and told Tibet Watch that this is a heart breaking incident but he is proud of his son and his sacrifice for the Tibetan nation.
March is a traditional time of tension inside Tibet because of the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. The nationwide disturbances of 2008 began in March and the first of the wave of self-immolations that occurred in Tibet between 2011 and 2015 was in March 2011 (1). The Tibet Autonomous Region has been closed to foreign travellers this month, as it has been every March since the Tibetan protests of 2008.
More than 140 Tibetans have set themselves alight inside Tibet, with the most recent protest taking place in August 2015 (2). Seven have taken place outside Tibet since 1998.
Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“Six months have passed since the last self-immolation inside Tibet. China’s use of collective punishments on the families and communities of self-immolation protesters has certainly had a deterrent effect but whether this form of protest is over in Tibet, no one can say. Dorjee Tsering’s protest yesterday was a sign of how deep and sustained Tibetan opposition to Chinese rule remains among Tibetans outside Tibet. It was also a reminder that whether inside or outside the country, young Tibetans feel the sense of injustice and are driven to act because of it.”
Notes to editors
(1) Portrait of Dorjee Tsering https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/25417889195/in/dateposted/ ; photograph in hospital https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/25299578272/in/dateposted/ Please credit Free Tibet.
(2) Phuntsog, 16 March 2011 http://freetibet.org/news-media/case-studies-phuntsog
(3) Last self-immolation: Tashi Kyi, 27 August 2015. Free Tibet press release http://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/tibetan-woman-self-immolates-after-authorities-bulldoze-houses. The last self-immolation outside Tibet was by Karma Ngedon Gyatso, August 6 2013, in Nepal. Full list of self-immolators inside Tibet at http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet