In a climate of deepening tension and military buildup, a Tibetan man set fire to himself today (February 8) at around 6 pm local time in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), according to Tibetan monks in exile who are in contact with people in the region.
According to two Tibetan monks from Kirti monastery in Dharamsala, India (associated with Kirti monastery in Ngaba), the Tibetan set himself on fire at a primary school early in the evening in Ngaba county town in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Amdo). Sources said that the Tibetan seemed to be a monk, but his name and place of origin are not known. He was taken away by police, and it is not known whether he is still alive. Two monks were also detained from the vicinity.
The two Kirti monks in exile, Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe, said that they believed security was tightened still further in Ngaba because of the global spotlight on Tibet following the deaths of Tibetan protestors in recent weeks and out of concern that the worldwide vigil for Tibet today, called for by the Tibetan government in exile (CTA, Parliament to hold campaigns to defuse crises in Tibet), could be acted on inside Tibet.
Kanyag Tsering was quoted by Radio Free Asia as saying: “The Tibetans in Tibet are aware of the exile Tibetans’ global solidarity protest today, and as a result there was a massive security presence in Ngaba. During the daytime, almost no Tibetans were seen in the street. The self-immolation took place in the evening, when the security forces had considerably withdrawn from the scene.” (RFA, New self-immolation amid tensions). He added that the news of the self-immolation was confirmed by several different sources.
The Tibetan writer Woeser attributed the increased security and sensitivity in Tibet, already high in Ngaba, because today is Wednesday, known as Lhakar Day, a day in which Tibetans in exile and also in Tibet make a special effort to wear traditional clothes, speak Tibetan, eat in Tibetan restaurants and buy from Tibetan-owned businesses. (for more information, go to lhakar.org). In a microblog written in Chinese, Woeser wrote: “Today is Wednesday, Tibetan’s Lhakar Day. Tibet has been abuzz with text messages calling for memorializing Tibetan heroes by wearing traditional Tibetan clothes and going to the monastery, and this has put local authorities on high alert with the army, PAP [People’s Armed Police] moving into Tibetan areas and setting up checkpoints at every junction and carrying out searches. Every work unit in all Tibetan areas is responsible for a stretch of road and is to be on duty today and tomorrow; it’s said that if anything happens on a road that a work unit is responsible for, officials at that unit could be fined.”
The self-immolation today in Ngaba follows a number of protests in Ngaba and neighbouring Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province, in which at least three Tibetans were shot dead. It also follows an earlier self-immolation in Ngaba county town by a young Tibetan man called Losang Jamyang on January 14. According to various sources, Tibetans gathered in distress after they witnessed police violently beating Losang Jamyang with sticks studded with nails, and as tension built up, police opened fire, shooting two Tibetans, whose welfare and whereabouts is not known. (ICT report, New information on latest self-immolation, Tibetans critically injured by police).