Elderly monk carries out self-immolation protest in eastern Tibet

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A 63-year-old monk named Tenga (1) set himself on fire on 26 November in Kardze County, eastern Tibet (2).

According to a friend of Tenga who was at the scene of the protest (3), Tenga shouted “We want freedom in Tibet” as he set himself on fire.

After security personnel arrived on the scene they took Tenga’s body away. It is not clear at this point whether or not Tenga survived his protest. Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch, is currently working to confirm these details.

Authorities responded to the protest by immediately putting the region under heavy security by deploying large numbers of police and People's Armed Police to the area. Tenga’s home village, Dhadho, has also been put under police watch.

Tenga formerly lived and practiced in Kardze Monastery before health problems forced him to leave. Since then he has been living at his home in Dhadho Village, where he conducted prayer teachings for local Tibetans, who gave him the honorary title Gen Tenga (4). Tenga was said to have followed global and Tibetan affairs with keen interest.

Kardze County has been one of the main centres of Tibetan resistance to the Chinese military occupation, with a number of demonstrations and self-immolation protests taking place there in recent years. In April this year, Wangchuk Tseten, another resident of Kardze, carried out a fatal self-immolation protest (5).

Tenga is the fifth Tibetan known to have carried out a self-immolation protest in Tibet this year,  an increase on last year. Among those to have set themselves on fire this year is Chakdor Kyab, a 16-year-old Tibetan student and one of the youngest Tibetans to have carried out a self-immolation protest (6). Two Tibetans have also set themselves on fire in India this year (7).

Since 2009 over 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the occupation (8), which has been in force since 1950, as well as human rights abuses and restrictions on Tibet’s religion and culture carried out under Chinese rule. The majority of these protests have been fatal.

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

“The images and video of Tenga’s protest are shocking. Some might want to look away, others may wonder how anybody could be driven to carry out such a drastic act. But we must not ignore what is happening here. It is a sobering thought that the majority of Tibetans, whether they are 16 years old like Chakdor Kyab, or 63 years old like Tenga, have only known life under occupation. Their country was snatched away from them by the Chinese army before they were born and they have grown up in a world of daily injustices and human rights abuses. It is these injustices and abuses that motivate self-immolation protests. Tenga’s cry as he set himself on fire: “We want freedom in Tibet”, was clear and decisive. We owe it to Tenga, and his fellow Tibetans, to heed his cry and understand why he carried out his protest. Governments around the world must use all of their diplomatic weight to push Beijing to change course, and allow the Tibetan people to live in freedom.”


For further information or comment, contact Free Tibet Campaigns and Communications Manager John Jones:

T:+44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes to editors


1. A photos of Tenga can be accessed here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/albums/72157689764820834  

2. Location: Kardze County (Ch: Ganzi), Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province

3. Name withheld for security reasons

4. ‘Gen’ is an honorary title meaning ‘teacher’

5. https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/video-monk-carries-out-self-immolation-protest-tibet   

6. https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/tibetan-teenager-sets-himself-fire  

7. In July, Tenzin Choeying set himself on fire in Sarnath: https://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/tibetan-student-sets-self-fire-sarnath-india Later that month, Dhondup set himself on fire in Dharamsala https://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/fatal-self-immolation-takes-place-among-tibetan-community-dharamsala

8. 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