Two Tibetan teenagers set themselves on fire in Ngaba

  • Two Tibetan teenagers set fire to themselves and died yesterday, February 19, in Dzorge, Ngaba. Seventeen-year old Rinchen and 18-year old Sonam Dargye were from the same village of Gardong and went to primary school together, according to Tibetan Buddhist monks from Kirti monastery in India.
  • Among the 104 Tibetans who have self-immolated in the PRC since February, 2009, 22 have been 18-years old or younger.
  • Family and friends of Namlha Tsering, who self-immolated and died on February 17, were not allowed to carry out prayers at his home, and the authorities took his body for cremation on the same day. He was described by those who knew him as a “gentle and honest” person.
  • Tibetans are so distressed by the sentencing of Tibetans to long prison terms by the authorities in their drive to criminalize self-immolation that they have warned self-immolations may continue “for a long time,” according to one report.
The self-immolations of Rinchen and Sonam

Rinchen

Rinchen, 17, self-immolated on February 19, 2013.

Rinchen and Sonam went to primary school together in Kyangtsa township in Dzorge (Chinese: Ruergai/Zoige) County in Ngaba Tibetan and QiangAutonomousPrefecture in SichuanProvince, the Tibetan area of Amdo. Rinchen had been working away from home and returned for the Losar (Tibetan New Year) holiday.

According to the same Tibetan sources, the families were able to recover Rinchen’s and Sonam Dargye’s bodies, although it is not clear whether they will be allowed to carry out traditional prayers. Their self-immolations yesterday followed the death of a Tibetan monk in his mid-30s called Lobsang Namgyal, who set fire to himself on February 3 outside the Public Security Bureau in the same county. He was heard calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama while he was ablaze, according to Tibetan Buddhist monks from Kirti monastery in India.

Related news

In related news, the family and friends of Namlha Tsering, who self-immolated and died on February 17, were not allowed to carry out prayers at his home. Armed police who extinguished the flames when Namlha Tsering set himself on fire took away his body and a motorbike that was believed to belong to him (ICT report, Tibetan farmer from nomadic area sets fire to himself in Labrang).

According to Tibetan sources living in exile, the Chinese authorities cremated Namlha Tsering on the same day at a cremation area around two kilometres from Labrang town. They did not allow Tibetans to attend. Troops and police surrounded Namlha Tsering’s village and did not allow Tibetans to go to his family home to pay their respects, warning that anyone who did so would be arrested.

The same Tibetan sources, who are from the Labrang (Chinese: Sangchu) area in Gansu, said: “Namlha Tsering was a gentle and honest person and he was respected a lot in his village. After his self-immolation, friends from his village tried to recover his corpse from the Chinese but the Chinese troops and police stopped them. Namlha Tsering had a lovely family and comfortable living conditions, but he still chose this path, because of the hardline Chinese policies on Tibet.”

Labrang Tashikyil monastery is one of the most important Gelugpa religious institutions, and hundreds of Tibetans have been gathered there for prayers after Losar. For the past three days since Namlha Tsering’s self-immolation, Labrang has been under lockdown with troops and police checking hotels and the identification documents of religious pilgrims. A checkpoint was set up on the road to Namlha Tsering’s village from Labrang.

A Tibetan in exile who asked not to be named but who has spoken to Tibetans in the Ngaba area has warned that the authorities risk escalating the situation still further by the oppressive response to the self-immolations. The Tibetan said that Tibetans in the area described such distress at the imposition of prison sentences on Tibetans alleged to have “incited” self-immolations that local people were saying if those Tibetans were not released, then the self-immolations “could go on for a very long time.”

On January 31, 2013, six Tibetans were sentenced by the Sangchu (Ch: Xiahe) County People’s Court in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province, to prison terms ranging from 3 to 12 years following the self-immolation and death of Dorje Rinchen on October 23, 2012. The six sentences follow two sentences on similar charges in Ngaba, including a suspended death sentence given to a monk from Kirti monastery. Kirti Rinpoche, the abbot of Kirti monastery in exile, has reacted with “fears for their lives.” (ICT report, Six Tibetans in Gansu sentenced after protecting body of self-immolator in aggressive drive to criminalize self-immolations)

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