Tibetan nomad self-immolates and dies in Yushu

Tenzin Sherab

Tenzin Sherab

A Tibetan nomad in his early thirties called Tenzin Sherab set fire to himself and died on Monday (May 27) in the Gyaring area of Yushu in Qinghai province, according to exile Tibetan sources.

Police took Tenzin Sherab’s body from the site of his self-immolation, but according to the same sources, they later released it to the family. The family were questioned on why they thought Tenzin Sherab had self-immolated.

Tenzin Sherab (pictured) was the oldest of five siblings from a village in Chumarleb (Chinese: Qumarleb/Qumalai), Yushu (Kyegu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (the Tibetan area of Kham). According to exile Tibetan sources, his nomad family had been resettled to Chumarleb under the Chinese authorities’ policies of settlement, land confiscation, and fencing of pastoral areas inhabited by Tibetans, dramatically curtailing their livelihoods.

Tenzin Sherab had previously talked to friends about the difficulties of life due to Chinese policies, and his fears for the survival of Tibetan culture and religion.

One Tibetan exile source believes that Tenzin Sherab could have been on the road collecting caterpillar fungus (yartsa gunbu) when he died as many nomads do so in the Gyaring area at this time of year. After the loss of land under the Chinese government’s settlement policy, and ill-prepared to compete with Chinese migrant workers for employment, more and more Tibetans depend on collecting yartsa gunbu to earn a living. It is bought by traders and sold to pharmaceutical companies and Chinese medicine clinics across China.

Tenzin Sherab’s self-immolation is the first in this area and follows a pause in the wave of self-immolations across Tibet of just over a month, since two young monks set themselves on fire in the assembly hall of Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monastery in Dzorge, Sichuan, on April 24. A list of 117 known self-immolations in Tibet since 2009 is here, with details reported of other cases where the circumstances are not clear: Self-immolations by Tibetans.

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