Mother of five dies in self-immolation protest
Free Tibet press release
7 May 2016, immediate use
Fatal Tibetan self-immolation
March protest just confirmed due to communications clampdown in area
Sonam Tso, a mother of five, carried out a self-immolation protest on Wednesday 23 March 2016, in Dzoege County, Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (1). News of the protest only emerged from Tibet yesterday due to communication restrictions in the area.
The protest took place around midday near Sera monastery in Dzoege County in Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (2). Sonam Tso and her husband, Kalsang Gyaltsen, were walking around the monastery. At one point she asked him to go ahead and said she would join him later. A few minutes later one of the monks heard someone calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and freedom for Tibet. He then saw Sonam Tso on fire and calling out the slogans. He called for help then he and Sonam's Tso's husband tried to put out the flames. With the help of another monk named Tsultrim, who was also Sonam Tso's uncle, they brought her body inside the monastery and arranged a vehicle to take her to hospital. However, she died before they were able to leave the monastery.
Sonam Tso was around 50 years old and the mother of five children, three daughters and two sons. She was from Dotsa village, within the same township as Sera monastery.
Tsultrim was arrested after the protest on charges of having shared information about Sonam Tso's self-immolation. He was released after eight days in detention and was forced to delete the photograph he had taken of the protest. Kalsang Gyaltsen was also called in for questioning three times.
Sonam Tso’s is the second self-immolation to take place inside Tibet during 2016. The earlier protest was carried out by a monk named Kalsang Wangdu on 29 February 2016 (3). To date, more than 140 Tibetans have set themselves alight protesting China’s rule in Tibet (4).
Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“The time that it has taken for this news to reach us is indicative of the repressive conditions that Tibetans inside Tibet are forced to live under. That same repression is responsible for Sonam Tso’s death. China continues to try and blame the self-immolations on outside influence or to attribute them to non-political causes. It is long past time that other governments and the world’s media were willing to acknowledge the ugly truth: every Tibetan who dies in a self-immolation protest has been killed by China.”
For further information or comment, contact Free Tibet campaigns and media manager Alistair Currie:
Notes to editors
(1) Portrait photograph available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/26866984605/in/dateposted/
(2) Location: Sera monastery, Akyi (Ch: Axi) township, Dzoege (Ch: Ruoergai) County, Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province
(3) Free Tibet press release, 2 March 2015 http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/pr/first-self-immolation-tibet-august-2015-confirmed
(4) The first self-immolation in Tibet took place in 2009 and there were no further self-immolations until March 2011. 2012 saw the peak number of self-immolations, with 83 confirmed. Full list of self-immolation protesters at http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet