Tibetan, 24, dies in first self-immolation protest in 2019

Thursday, 28 November 2019

A 24 year-old Tibetan man named Yonten has died after setting himself on fire in the first self-immolation protest in Tibet in 2019 (1). 

Yonten carried out his protest in Meruma Township, Ngaba County, eastern Tibet (2) at around 4pm (local time) on Tuesday, 26 November.

He died of his injuries on the same day. It is currently unknown whether police took his body away or if it was taken back to his home.

Meruma is a nomadic township. Yonten was previously a monk in Kirti Monastery in Ngaba but later disrobed and settled as a nomad. The township has been the scene of numerous self-immolation protests over the past decade, most recently in March 2018, when Tsekho Tugchak died after setting himself on fire (3). Prior to that, on 23 December 2017, Kunbey, a 30-year-old monk living in Meruma Township, set himself on fire outside Kirti Monastery. Kunbey died of his injuries the following day (4).

There have been over 150 self-immolations across Tibet since 2009. The majority of them have been fatal. At least 42 have been recorded in Ngaba (5). The first two Tibetans to carry out self-immolations in Tibet, Tabe in 2009 and Phuntsok in 2011, were both monks from Kirti Monastery, which has since been put under tight supervision by Chinese authorities due to the number of demonstrations and self-immolation protests carried out by its residents (6). There have also been repeated protests in Ngaba County, including demonstrations and solo protests, despite high levels of security (7).

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

“Yonten lived his life under occupation. In his 24 years, he would have seen Chinese police and military suppress protests in his homeland, seen his culture, language and religion come under attack, seen people he knew arrested and made to disappear. Tibetans today grow up in a world of injustice.

“Other governments, China’s allies and trade partners, should not need drastic acts like Yonten’s death to remind them how brutal the occupation is. They must speak out and push China to 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. Photos of Yonten are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/49136750972https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/49136750967 https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/49136064798 (content warning: this third image is a distant photo of the self-immolation protest)
  2. Meruma Township, Ngaba (Ch: Aba) County, Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province https://freetibet.org/about/location
  3. https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/first-self-immolation-protest-2018
  4. https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/former-monk-sacrifices-himself-tibet
  5. http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet
  6. https://freetibet.org/tibets-monasteries
  7. https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/three-young-tibetan-monks-held-solo-protest-ngaba-county.