Tibetan student sets self on fire in Sarnath, India

Friday, 14 July 2017

A 19-year-old Tibetan college student named Tenzin Choeying carried out a self-immolation protest this morning (14 July) at 9:10am in Sarnath in India's northeastern Bihar State (1)(2).

Tenzin Choeying carried out his protest in the campus of Sarnath’s Central University of Tibetan Studies.

According to eyewitnesses, Tenzin Choeying set himself on fire after coming out of a hall of residence and ran around 20 steps shouting "Bod Gyalo, Bod Gyalo (Victory to Tibet, Victory to Tibet)” and then fell to the ground.

Those close by extinguished the fire and Tenzin Choeying was taken to hospital. He is currently being treated at the Heritage Hospital in the city of Varanasi where doctors say he has suffered burns to two-thirds of his body. The lower part of his body is said to be particularly badly burned.

Tenzin Choeying’s self-immolation took place at the same time that a speech by Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay was starting at the university (3). Lobsang Sangay is currently in nearby Varanasi on an official visit.

Tenzin Choeying is from the Kollegal Tibetan Settlement in southern India and the youngest of four children. He is a second year student at the Central University for Tibetan Studies and a member of the regional Tibetan Youth Congress of Varanasi. 

He left a written note (4) before carrying out the self-immolation, in which he says: "I burn myself for Tibet". Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch is working to produce a full translation of this letter.

Almost 150 Tibetans have set themselves alight inside Tibet (5), with the most recent protest taking place in May 2017 (6). At least eight similar protests have taken place outside Tibet since 1998.

Free Tibet’s Campaigns and Communications Manager, John Jones, said:

“Tenzin Choeying’s protest today provides yet more evidence of the deep and whole-hearted opposition that Tibetans have to China’s continued occupation of their country and to the human rights abuses that prop this occupation up. Whether inside or outside Tibet, young Tibetans like Tenzin Choeying, who have never known Tibet as a free country, feel a sense of injustice that drives them to act and make sacrifices that many of us could barely comprehend. The global community must heed their message and press China to end this occupation and the oppression behind it.”


For further information or comment, Free Tibet’s Campaigns and Communications Manager, John Jones:
E: john@freetibet.org 
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605


Notes to editors

(1)  CCTV footage of Tenzin Choeying’s protest has been released and can be seen  here: https://youtu.be/kT6PW-TgSNI

(2)  A picture of Tenzin Choeying prior to his self-immolation can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/35917178205/in/dateposted/ A picture of Tenzin Choeying in hospital subsequent to his protest has also been released: https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/35747572922/in/dateposted/

(3)  Dr Lobsang Sangay is the Sikyong, the democratically-elected political leader of the Tibetan people, fulfilling a role equivalent to Prime Minister. The Sikyong is heads of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government in exile, based in Dharamsala.

(4)  A picture of the note can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/35877587846/in/dateposted/

(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

(6)  For further details, see: https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/tibetan-monk-dies-after-self-immolating-eastern-tibet