UPDATE January 16: Further confirmation has emerged of the self-immolation of a young, male Tibetan layperson at around 1 pm local time on January 14. The Tibetan man has died. It is not clear whether he was in police custody when he died or in hospital, but he was taken away from the scene by police. As reported below, after local people witnessed the violent beating of the young man by police, while they put out the flames, they spontaneously gathered to protest. It is not clear how many people were involved but some sources indicate that at least 100 people converged on the scene. Police fired tear-gas in an attempt to disperse the Tibetans and shot at the crowd. It has not been possible to confirm whether a Tibetan woman, believed to have been shot in the leg, died, or whether there were any other deaths as a result of the shooting. Serious repercussions are feared for any Tibetans involved or suspected of involvement in the incident on Saturday.
There has been an escalation of tensions in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) today after the violent actions of police towards a Tibetan who set himself on fire led to armed police shooting into a crowd. According to emerging reports from sources in exile, at least two Tibetans were shot. Several are believed to be seriously injured, and reports that a Tibetan woman had died could not be fully confirmed at the time of writing.
The shooting followed the self-immolation of a Tibetan layman today in Ngaba town (Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, the Tibetan area of Amdo). According to the same sources, the Tibetan was observed being beaten severely by police as the flames were extinguished. Tibetans gathered around in distress and there were attempts to take the body of the Tibetan who self-immolated away from police. According to various sources the Tibetan was dead.
Police opened fire on the crowd of Tibetans, and at least two were shot. Tear gas was also used. According to various reports, several Tibetans were injured, possibly severely, and some Tibetan sources said a woman had died.
An Tibetan from Amdo who is now in exile and spoke to some sources in the area said: “Many people witnessed the violent treatment of police towards the Tibetan who self-immolated and were very angry. We heard that police were beating him with a stick studded with nails. The Tibetan died and was taken away by the people, not by the police.”
Tibetans were still gathered in Ngaba into the evening today and there are serious fears of further escalation and repercussions for Tibetans in the area. The International Campaign for Tibet is calling upon the international community to press the Chinese authorities to use restraint as a matter of urgency.
The self-immolation that occurred today was the 17th since Kirti monk Tapey set fire to himself on February 27, 2009. Twelve of the 17 were from Ngaba (see ICT’s self-immolation factsheet). The last self-immolation occurred just under a week ago in Golog, Qinghai, and was the first of a reincarnate lama. Sonam Wangyal (also referred to as Lama Soepa), a respected religious figure in his local area, drank kerosene and set himself on fire on January 8 early in the morning in Darlag county, Golog (Chinese: Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai (the Tibetan area of Amdo).