Teenage Tibetan monk dies after self-immolation in Dzoege

  • An 18-year old monk called Konchok Sonam set himself on fire on July 20 and died outside his monastery in Dzoege, Ngaba, where the crackdown has been among the most intense in Tibetan areas.
  • The self-immolation is the ninth in Dzoege and brings the number of Tibetan self-immolations in Tibet and China to 121 since February 2009 (Self-immolations by Tibetans). It occurred despite aggressive measures by the authorities over the past two years to prevent self-immolations in the Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) area. The most senior Tibetan official in Dzoege county has been removed from his post following the self-immolations and because he was known to be responsive to the concerns of local Tibetans, Radio Free Asia reported.
  • A heavy troop presence has now deployed in Thangkor (Ch: Tangke) town and at the Soktsang (Tashi Thekchokling) Gelugpa monastery in Dzoege (Chinese: Ruo’ergai) in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan (the Tibetan area of Amdo) where Konchok Sonam was a monk. Another Tibetan monk, Tangdzin, was detained, according to one Tibetan source. Radio Free Asia reported that hundreds of Tibetans have gathered at the monastery in support of monks who prevented Chinese authorities from taking away his body.

Konchok Sonam

Konchok Sonam

Prayers were held for Konchok Sonam after his self-immolation despite the authorities’ attempts to prevent Tibetans doing so, according to exile Tibetan sources.

Kunchok Sonam was regarded as ‘exceptional’ in his studies. He had told friends that living under Chinese rule in Tibet had brought too much suffering.

Konchok Sonam’s self-immolation was the ninth self-immolation in Dzoege, including two twin immolations this year. Despite the intense restrictions, in many cases local Tibetans in Dzoege have been able to retrieve the bodies and organize prayer ceremonies. On February 19 (2013), schoolfriends 17-year old Rinchen and 18-year old Sonam Dhargye died in a twin self-immolation in Dzoege township. According to Tibetan sources, their families were able to recover their bodies. Two monks of the Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monastery in Dzoege, Losang Dawa, 20, and Konchok Woeser, 23, set themselves on fire in the monastery’s assembly hall on April 24 (2013). They shouted slogans against Chinese government policies in Tibet, and died immediately. The monks took their bodies to their rooms and said prayers for them.

Four months earlier, on December 8, 2012 at the same monastery, hundreds of monks chanted prayers for 24-year old monk Kunchok Pelgye after he set himself on fire and died outside the main assembly hall of Taktsang Lhamo Kirti. (ICT report, Three Tibetans self-immolate in two days during important Buddhist anniversary: images of troops in Lhasa as Tibetans pray).

Soktsang Thekchokling monastery, where Konchok Sonam was a monk, was founded in 1658, and destroyed in or after 1958 in the early years of Chinese rule. Like many monasteries in Tibet, it was rebuilt by local people in 1983, in the years of relative liberalization following the Cultural Revolution, and now has 300 monks.

According to Radio Free Asia, the head of Dzoege county has been removed from his post as he was regarded to be popular among Tibetans and following the series of self-immolations in the area.

Tenzin Yarphel was transferred to head the prefecture’s department of environment protection, a lower profile appointment, on June 8, 2013, Radio Free Asia reported (RFA, Communist Party Chief Transferred After Tibetan Self-Immolations – July 17). Tenzin Yarphel was said to have been “responsive to the problems of the community”, according to the report.

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