Tibetan self-immolation protest confirmed during David Cameron's visit to China

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


A 30 year-old Tibetan herdsman named Kunchok Tseten has set himself alight in Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, eastern Tibet, around 5pm local time on 3 December (1). Before collapsing he called for the return of the Dalai Lama and reunification of Tibet. His current condition is unknown (portrait photos available, 2).

Local Tibetans tried unsuccessfully to prevent Kunchok Tseten from being taken by security forces. Police have arrested a number of Tibetans in the area, including Kunchok Tseten’s wife. They have imposed a communications shutdown and seized any cell phones they saw being used after the protest.

Kunchok Tseten is reported to have stated his intention to self-immolate earlier this year, saying “I cannot bear the atrocities of the Chinese government any longer.”

The protest took place on the final full day of the state visit of the UK Prime Minister to China. There is nothing at present to indicate that the two events were related but Mr Cameron’s policy of making no reference to concerns about Tibet in public has been sharply criticised during his visit.

In response to a journalist’s question about a range of issues including Tibet, Mr Cameron claimed to have “raised all those issues” with President Xi Jinping but provided no further detail of the discussion. He has made no public statement on Tibet in China, other than to confirm that he has “no plans” to meet the Dalai Lama again (3).

A poll conducted by Free Tibet immediately before the Prime Minister’s visit found that the majority of British adults believed it would be right for Mr Cameron to raise human rights in Tibet during his state visit to China (4). Only 10% thought it would be wrong to do so. The poll also shows that seven in ten (69%) believe that protecting human rights in Tibet is more important than, or as important as, maintaining good trade relations with China. Only 7% considered human rights as less important than trade relations.

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“Before Mr Cameron left for China, Free Tibet publicly asked whether he was going to ignore the more than 120 self-immolations that have taken place in Tibet since his last visit to the country. He did and now another Tibetan has added himself to the tally of those willing to sacrifice themselves for Tibet. The courage of the Tibetan people in their ongoing resistance to China’s rule deserves better than this.”

For further information or comment, contact Alistair Currie:
E: alistair@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes for editors

1. Location: Meruma Township, Ngaba County (Ch: Aba) Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Ch: Aba), Sichuan Province.
2. Photos available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157638353201955/
3. Daily Telegraph 2 December 2013 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/10489906/David-Cameron-swerves-Tibet-while-Bloomberg-reporter-is-banned-from-press-briefing.html
4. For full results see Free Tibet press release, 1 December 2013 http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/pr/uk-public-cameron-should-raise-tibet-china-visit

Full list of self-immolations