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Two Tibetans self-immolate whilst displaying banned Tibet flags PDF Print E-mail
On 20 June 2012, the day the Dalai Lama met with British MPs at the Houses of Parliament in London, two Tibetans carrying Tibetan national flags set fire to themselves in eastern Tibet in a protest against China's rule. The joint self-immolations occurred in Jyekundo (Chinese: Yushu), the scene of a devastating earthquake in April 2010. One Tibetan died at the scene, the other died in hospital six weeks later.

[Update - 31 July 2012] Ngawang Norphel died on 30 July, nearly six weeks after his self-immolation protest. Ngawang had been receiving treatment in a Chinese hospital in Tsongon, eastern Tibet. According to a local source, Chinese officials attempted to interrogate Ngawang whenever he managed to say a few words, though eventually he stopped talking altogether. Ngawang's father was present when he died.
Read more: Phayul
Note: this report contains a disturbing image of Ngawang's burnt body.

Tenzin and Ngawang[21 June 2012] On 20 June, at about 3.30pm, two young TIbetan men held up banned Tibetan flags and shouted slogans in Zatoe town, Tridu (Ch: Chenduo) county, Jyekundo (Ch: Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), Kham (Ch: Qinghai province). As they called for freedom in Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama they set fire to themselves. Tenzin Khedup (pictured right), 24, died at the scene, whilst Ngawang Norphel (pictured left), 22, is believed to have survived and in hospital, though his condition and exact whereabouts are not known.

Tenzin's body was reported to have been taken to Zilkar monastery in Trindu county, where he formerly was a monk. Tenzin was born locally, though Ngawang is understood to be from Ngaba, Amdo (located in the Chinese province of Sichuan).

According to a source quoted by Radio Free Asia, the two young men had written a message before their protest which said their deaths were for the Tibetan cause and called for unity amongst their fellow Tibetans.

The message said, "We could not contribute significantly towards the Tibetan religion and culture and we could not [help bring about] economic benefits to Tibetans. Therefore, we have decided to self-immolate with the hope that His Holiness the Dalai Lama may live long and return to Tibet as soon as possible. For the cause of Tibetans, we chose to die for these reasons. We also want to appeal to our fellow youth that they should not quarrel among themselves and they should not have any ill feelings against each other. Everyone should unite to uphold the cause of the Tibetan race and nationality."

There have now been 41 self-immolations in Tibet, since the first recorded case in February 2009, of which 31 are known to have died. This year alone there have been 25 self-immolations.

Protests follow self-immolation in Chentsa
On 15 June Tamdin Thar (pictured right) became the 39th Tibetan to self-immolate in Tibet. Tamdin, from a nomadic family and in his 40s or 50s, self-immolated in front of a People's Armed Police base in Chentsa, Malho (Ch: Huangnan TIbetan Autonomous Prefecture), Amdo (located in the Chinese province of Qinghai). Tamdin was taken away by police and died later the same day.

Eyewitnesses reported that Tamdin had drunk petrol as well as pouring it over his body, before setting himself alight. He also had wrapped himself with barbed wire to make it difficult for police to get hold of him.

Following the self-immolation, hundreds of Tibetans gathered outside the police station and demanded the return of Tamdin's body. The authorities eventually complied, but have since established a security clampdown in the region. Despite the increased presence of Chinese security forces, thousands of local Tibetans risked arrest by gathering for the funeral of Tamdin Thar.

According to the Tibetan news service Phayul, Tamdin left behind a written message saying his protest was an "offering of light" and he hoped for "Tibet to be ruled by Tibetans".

Tamdin's message read,
"I take refuge in the Three Jewels - Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
With the hope that peace prevails on earth,
With the yearning for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his land,
For Tibet to be ruled by Tibetans, I set my body on fire as an offering of light.

Tamdin and his family moved to Chentsa several years ago as part of the Chinese government's policy of relocating nomads off their traditional land. In recent months Tamdin is believed to have made a pilgrimage which included visits to sites of previous self-immolations in Golog and Ngaba.

Further reading:
Tenzin Khedup & Ngawang Norphel immolations: RFA I Phayul I TCHRDBBC
Tamdin Thar immolation: ICT I RFA I Phayul
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