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Self-immolation in Tibet as Cameron visits China PDF Print E-mail
[6 December 2013: UPDATE] A Tibetan father of two self-immolated in eastern Tibet on 2 December whilst Prime Minister Cameron was in China on a trade mission. Kunchok Tseten called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for unity amongst Tibetans during his protest. He died shortly after being taken into police custody and was cremated before his relatives were informed. His wife and several relatives were arrested following the protest.

Kunchok TsetenOn 2 December, Kunchok Tseten (pictured right) set himself ablaze in Meruma town, Ngaba county, Ngaba prefecture, Amdo (now incorporated into Chinas Sichuan province). He ran down the main street before collapsing. According to Phayul sources, he was heard to shout Long live Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso [the Dalai Lama], lets unite our brothers here and those in exile. Radio Free Asia sources say he also called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

Chinese police were quickly on the scene. Scuffles broke out with local Tibetans who attempted to prevent the police from taking Kunchok away. Several Tibetans were detained and the police eventually took Kunchok away.

Eyewitnesses said Kunchok had been engulfed in flames and suffered severe burns. Subsequent reports indicate he died whilst the police were taking him to a hospital in nearby Barkham county. Chinese officials immediately cremated his body without informing his family and later returned his ashes to a relative of his wife. The cremation meant that traditional Tibetan funeral rituals could not be performed.

Following the self-immolation protest, Kunchoks wife Namnang, 28, and several of his relatives were arrested. Their current condition and whereabouts are not known.

Security has been tightened in the region, and shops and restaraunts in Meruma were ordered to close following the self-immolation. Local Tibetans also had their mobile phones confiscated.

Kunchok Tseten, from a nomadic family, was 30 years-old and leaves behind two children aged three and four. According to Phayul, Kunchoks brother anticipated the protest after told Kunchok told him earlier this year, I cant tolerate the atrocities committed by the Chinese government on us Tibetans, and with all the self immolation by Tibetan brothers and sisters thus far I would one day sacrifice myself by burning myself.

Kunchoks self-immolation took place whilst the British Prime Minister was visiting China. It is not known if Kunchok timed his protest to coincide with Camerons trip.

This is the 26th self-immolation to take place in Tibet in 2013, and the 123rd since the first took place in February 2009. There have also been six other self-immolations by Tibetans, one in Beijing, two in India and three in Nepal. The self-immolation protests have been in response to the lack of freedoms brought about by Chinas hard-line policies in Tibet. The vast majority of self-immolators have specifically called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, for an end to Chinas oppressive policies or for Tibetan unity.

Further reading: Phayul I Radio Free Asia I ICT
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