16-year-old Tibetan student sets himself on fire

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Free Tibet has confirmed that Chakdor Kyab, a 16-year-old Tibetan student, set himself on fire on 2 May in eastern Tibet (1).

Chakdor Kyab carried out his self-immolation protest in the campus of Bora Monastery. Witnesses say that he shouted slogans as the flames took hold, with one of the witnesses stating that he called for freedom in Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet (2).

After setting himself on fire, Chakdor Kyab began to walk in the direction of the local government office of Bora Township, which is located near to Bora Monastery. He fell down and moments later Chinese police and security personnel arrived at the scene to take him away.

Chakdor Kyab’s current whereabouts and situation are not known due to the tight restrictions on communication into and out of Tibet. Despite early reports of this self-immolation last week, most residents of Bora Township were unaware that any protest had taken place and some details of this story have only been confirmed today.

Chakdor Kyab is the third Tibetan this year to have carried out a self-immolation protest. In March, Pema Gyaltsen carried out a self-immolation protest in Kardze, eastern Tibet (3). In April, a Tibetan, named by some sources as Wangchuk Tseten, carried out a self-immolation protest, also in Kardze (4). Since 2009, over 140 Tibetans have carried out self-immolation protests in Tibet. In most of these cases the protester lost their life (5).

Bora has been the site of at least four other self-immolations since 2009, three of which were fatal. A fourth Tibetan survived and had to have both legs amputated as a result of injuries sustained during the protest.

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“Chakdor Kyab’s young age will shock many people – how could a 16-year-old with his whole life ahead of him be driven to set himself on fire and very possibly sacrifice his life? The answer lies in the Chinese occupation of Tibet. A 16-year-old in Tibet has already seen and experienced horrors that most of us cannot imagine. They grow up in an atmosphere of repression, in which their religion and culture are denigrated, in which the police and military keep constant watch over them, and in which their countrymen are routinely arrested and tortured for speaking out.  The occupation and the human right abuses that prop it up are the root causes of these self-immolation protests. Chakdor Kyab’s self-immolation is the third to take place in Tibet within three months. They will only stop when the repression ends.”


Information supplied to Free Tibet by Tibet Watch.


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Notes to editors

  1. Location: Bora Township, Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) County, Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan) Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province
  2. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, has lived in exile since being forced to flee from Tibet to India in 1959. Tibetans often face arrest for calling for his return to Tibet or displaying his picture in public. For more information, see: https://freetibet.org/about/dalai-lama
  3. For further information, see: https://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/24-year-old-tibetan-sets-himself-fire-eastern-tibet
  4. For further information, see: https://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/video-monk-carries-out-self-immolation-protest-tibet
  5. The first self-immolation in Tibet took place in 2009. There were no further self-immolations until March 2011, with the peak number of self-immolations (83 confirmed cases) taking place in 2012. For a full list of self-immolation protesters, see: http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet