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First self-immolations take place in Lhasa PDF Print E-mail
[28 May 2012] Two Tibetans self-immolated in Lhasa on 27 May, the first such instances in the capital of Tibet since the drastic forms of protest against Chinese rule began in February 2009. One of the two young men has died and the other is in hospital. Though details are still sketchy, Chinese state media have confirmed the incident.

Jokhang TempleInitial reports indicate that 19 year-old Dorjee Tseten
(pictured right, above) and Dhargye set fire to themselves in front of the Jokhang temple (pictured below) in central Lhasa in the afternoon of 27 May. Security forces were quickly on the scene, dousing the flames and taking the two men away within minutes. Dorjee is understood to have died in hospital whilst the condition of Dhargye has not yet been verified.

Dhargye[Update: 2 June] Tibetan sources have confirmed the second immolator was Dhargye (pictured right), a 25 year-old former monk from Kirti monastery in Ngaba. Dhargye is believed to be alive, but details of his condition and whereabouts are still not known. Since the immolations, hundreds of Tibetans in Lhasa have been detained, non-residents have been expelled, security and surveillance has been increased and many communication lines have been cut.
[Update: 10 July] Radio Free Asia Tibetan service has reported that Dhargye died on 7 July in a military hospital in Lhasa. No-one had been allowed to visit Dhargye in hospital before his death.

According to a source quoted by Phayul, Dorjee Tseten and his friend stepped out of their rented room (near the Jokhang) at around 2.15 pm (local time) and set themselves on fire. Enveloped in towering flames, one of them ran to the flagpole in front of the Jokhang Temple and fell down while the other took around ten steps and fell on the ground.

Xinhua, the official Chinese state news agency, confirmed the self-immolations and said the two men had been taken to hospital where Dorjee (referred to as Tobgye Tseten by Xinhua) later died. Xinhua reported that Dhargye (name unconfirmed by Tibetan sources) had "survived with injuries".

Following the incident, security personnel closed the square in front of the Jokhang temple and surveillance was increased across the city. Radio Free Asia quoted sources saing that there was an increased visible presence of police and military troops on the streets and that the overall situation was "very tense". However, many communication lines to Lhasa have been cut subsequent to the self-immolations, making it difficult to get further details or verify the current situation.

According to a source quoted by Phayul, Dorjee and Dhargye worked at a restaurant in Lhasa, though both men were originally from eastern Tibet, Dorjee from Bora in Amdo and Dhargye from Ngaba. The source also said that following the self-immolations the owner of the restaruant and staff-members had been arrested.

The Lhasa self-immolations come during the period of Saga Dawa, an annual Buddhist festival which sees thousands of Tibetans making a pilgrimage to Lhasa to celebrate the festival.

A Chinese official, quoted by Xinhua, condemned the self-immolations, saying "these acts were all aimed at separating Tibet from China". The report also claimed the actions had been carefully planned with help from "separatist forces abroad".

The Lhasa self-immolations are the first to occur in the capital and only the second and third to occur in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). The previous self-immolation in the TAR took place on 1 December 2011 in Chamdo by 46 year-old Tenzin Phuntsok who died five days later. All of the other self-immolations have taken place in the eastern regions of traditional Tibet, now incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu.

There have now been 24 self-immolations in Tibet in 2012, of which 20 are reported to have died. Overall, since February 2009, 37 Tibetans in Tibet have self-immolated, at least 28 of whom are known to have died.

Further reading: Phayul (28 May) I RFA I BBC I Xinhua
I Phayul (2 June)
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