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Self-immolations continue as total exceeds 70 PDF Print E-mail
[12 November 2012] The number of self-immolations in Tibet since 2009 has reached 72 as reports have emerged of three more protests. One self-immolation took place in Kanlho on 10 November, whilst two occurred in Rebkong on 12 November, as protests against Chinese rule continue.

[Report updated 19 November]
Gonpo TseringOn 10 November, 19 year-old Gonpo Tsering (pictured right) self-immolated at approximately 2pm local time in front of a monastery in Lushoe, Tsoe (Chinese: Hezuo) county, Kanlho (Ch:Gannan) prefecture, Amdo (now incorporated into Gansu province). During his protest Gonpo called for freedom for Tibetans, the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and the protection of the Tibetan languages. Gonpo died several hours after his protest. Monks and local Tibetans took Gonpo's body to his home where a funeral was held.

Gonpo was a popular and bright student from Kay (or Ked) village in Tsoe county. He left school to get married in 2011. Gonpo's self-immolation was initially reported by the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua. Reports by Tibetan sources were apparently delayed due to the blocking of communication channels in the region.

Two further self-immolations took place on 12 November in Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren), Malho (Huangnan) prefecture, Amdo (now part of China's Qinghai province). Rebkong has already seen three self-immolations in the past week and on 8 and 9 November thousands of Tibetans took to the streets in a series of peaceful protests calling freedom and rights to be respected.

Nyingkar TashiNyingkar Tashi, a 24 year-old Tibetan man, self-immolated at about 3.30pm local time in Rongwo, Rebkong. During his protest Nyingkar shouted Long live the Dalai Lama and Freedom for Tibetans', according to a source quoted by Radio Free Asia. He died at the scene, with local Tibetans taking his body to his home.

In a note written before his self-immolation, Nyingkar Tashi said his protest was "against the Chinese government" and that the Tibetan population wanted freedom and independence. The note (translated from Tibetan) said:

Six million Tibetans want freedom for Tibet, independence for Tibet, freedom to learn Tibetan language, freedom to speak our mother tongue. (Tibetans) demand the release of Panchen Lama and that His Holiness the Dalai Lama must be allowed to come to Tibet. I set myself on fire in protest against the Chinese government."

He also urged his family not to be saddened and concerned" adding, "My hope is for all six million Tibetans to learn Tibetan language, to speak in Tibetan, to wear Tibetan, and to be united.

Nyingkar Tashi's self-immolation protest came during a visit to the Rebkong region of Chinese officials examining the recent self-immolations of Tamdin Tso (on 7 November) and Kalsang Jinpa (on 8 November). At a public meeting one of the officials blamed "outside forces" for instigating the self-immolations. At a meeting in Dowa, a Tibetan community leader reportedly told the Chinese delegation that the protests were due to Chinese government oppression, including restrictions on Tibetans freedoms, the detention of the Panchen Lama, the ban on Dalai Lama photos and prayers and that the Dalai Lama is not allowed to return to Tibet.

The second self-immolation on 12 November was by 20 year-old Nyingchag Bum, who died after setting fire to himself in front of a Chinese government building on the main street in Dowa town. Monks have taken his body to a local monastery and several thousand Tibetans were reported to have gathered for his funeral. Nyingchag Bum was the oldest of three brothers and was from Yonlag Dewa in Rebkong county.

There has been a crackdown in Rebkong following the self-immolations, with the situation being reported as very tense. Troops have been dispatched to Dowa town, plus the internet and phone lines have been blocked in an effort to prevent information of the protests from spreading.

The three self-immolations bring the total number of self-immolations in Tibet since 2009 to 72. The occurrences of self-immolations has increased dramatically in recent weeks, which is believed to be due to the Chinese Communist Party's National Congress in Beijing, where a new leadership is expected to be unveiled.

Further reading:
Gonpo Tsering self-immolation: RFA I Phayul (1) I Phayul (2)
Rebkong self-immolations - 12 Nov: Phayul (1) I Phayul (2) 14 Nov: Phayul I RFA I ICT
Warning: both Phayul reports from 12 Nov contain graphic images of self-immolations.

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