Respected Tibetan monk sets fire to himself in eastern Tibet

Tenga, the monk who self-immolated on November 26.

A popular Tibetan monk in his sixties who had worked as a voluntary teacher set fire to himself and died in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi), the eastern Tibetan area of Kham, on Sunday (November 26).

The monk, named Tenga, had studied in Kardze Monastery in Sichuan. He reportedly called for freedom for Tibet as he was burning, according to Tibetan sources.

Tenga is the 151st Tibetan to set himself on fire in Tibet since 2009, in one of the most sweeping and significant waves of self-immolation as political protest globally, and the fifth this year. Two Tibetans in exile in India also set fire to themselves in July (2017).[1]

According to Tibetan sources, armed police arrived quickly and took Tenga’s body away. There has been an immediate lockdown in the area, with internet communications blocked, according to the same sources.

According to a relative of Tenga who is now living in exile, the elderly monk was dedicated to educating village children on a voluntary basis in Kardze. The community gave him the respectful title of ‘Gen la’, or ‘Teacher’. Tenga had formerly been a monk at Kardze monastery, but had returned to his village, Dando, a couple of hours drive away after a bout of ill health. In addition to teaching, he also conducted prayer ceremonies and teachings for local people.

The same relative, who now lives in the U.S., said: “Everyone in the village respected him. He knew the Tibet issue well, and always advised me that I should do what I could for Tibet. He said that every Tibetan has a responsibility, and told me that wherever I went, I should not forget Tibet. I always remember him saying, proudly, I am Tibetan. This was very important for me.”

Tenga’s self-immolation is the third this year in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, an area of Tibet known for its resistance to Chinese rule and strong feelings of Tibetan identity among its people. In March, 24-year old farmer Pema Gyaltsen was heard to call for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for freedom as he set himself on fire in Kardze town. He was taken away by police to the provincial capital of Chengdu, and it is not known if he is still alive.[2] On April 15 (2017) a Tibetan father of three called Wangchuk Tseten was the second Tibetan this year to set himself on fire in Kardze town.[3]

Footnotes:
[1] In July, a Tibetan student in India, Tenzin Choeying, set himself on fire in the compound of his university in Varanasi, shouting ‘Victory for Tibet’. Later that month, a 49-year old wood painter called Dhondup set himself on fire in Dharamsala. See International Campaign for Tibet factsheet at: https://www.savetibet.org/resources/fact-sheets/self-immolations-by-tibetans/

[2] After Pema Gyaltsen’s self-immolation, Tibetan onlookers who are believed to have shouted out in solidarity or simply witnessed the burning, were detained and around ten members of his family were brutally beaten and held overnight, according to Tibetan sources. International Campaign for Tibet report, ‘Security crackdown follows first Tibetan self-immolation in 2017’, March 28, 2017, https://www.savetibet.org/security-crackdown-follows-first-tibetan-self-immolation-in-2017/

[3] International Campaign for Tibet report, ‘Footage from Tibet depicts self-immolation of father of three in Kardze’, April 18, 2017, https://www.savetibet.org/footage-from-tibet-depicts-self-immolation-of-father-of-three-in-kardze/

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