Young Tibetan father self-immolates in Tsekhog; officials warn Tibetans not to gather at cremations

A 24-year old Tibetan, Sangdag Tsering, set fire to himself and died on November 17 in a township in Tsekhog in Rebkong, Qinghai, where there have been eight self-immolations since November 4. He was the second Tibetan to self-immolate on November 17, following the death of mother of two Chagmo Kyi, who set fire to herself in Dolma Square, Rebkong.

Officials in the Rebkong area have warned people that they cannot go to the homes of those who self-immolated and express their condolences. They also said that if monks go to pray for self-immolators, monasteries will be closed down, and that the families of self-immolators will be punished.

Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Tibetans have attended cremations for Tibetans who have self-immolated in Rebkong over the past two weeks. Local lay Tibetans and monks gathered to mark Chagmo Kyi’s death on November 17 despite an intense military build-up over the past week. According to Tibetan sources, hundreds of Tibetans attending her cremation were surrounded by troops. Thousands of Tibetans gathered following Tibetan nomad Jinpa Gyatso¹s self-immolation in the same place, Dolma Square in Rebkong, on November 8, and a large number of Tibetans also gathered in Dowa township in Rebkong to say prayers for Nyangchag Bum, one of two Tibetans who self-immolated and died on Monday, November 12. (ICT report, Thousands of Tibetans mobilize in reaction to self-immolations despite security build up).

Sangdang Tsering self-immolated at around 7 p.m. on November 17 outside a government building in Dokar Mo township in Tsekhog (Chinese: Zeku/Zekog) county, which neighbors Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren), in Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai (the Tibetan area of Amdo). Security personnel at the scene attempted to douse the flames with water but failed.

Sangdang Tsering was married with a three-year old son. A Tibetan in exile said that Sangdag Tsering frequently spoke about the Dalai Lama not being allowed to be in Tibet, that Tibetans have no rights, and that the Panchen Lama is still in prison, referring to the young man recognised by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama who disappeared into Chinese custody at the age of six in 1995.

Sangdag Tsering was cremated near a local monastery, and according to the same sources, hundreds of Tibetans gathered at the cremation.

Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “Tibetans across Rebkong have responded to the self-immolations by gathering en masse to offer prayers. So far, they have been allowed some space to do this. But now a military build-up and communications cut-off has been put in place. Such oppressive measures will likely increase tensions and the potential for volatility. Instead, the authorities should be guided by what the self-immolators have said and address the legitimate grievances of the Tibetan people.”

Sangdag Tsering was the 76th Tibetan in Tibet to set fire to himself since February, 2009 (ICT: Self-Immolations Inside Tibet Fact Sheet).

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