Chinese authorities have tightened security measures on a Tibetan monastery where a man burned himself to death in protest against Beijing’s rule, as Tibetans fear another major crackdown after three self-immolations in a week, according to sources.
“If the people of the world have some compassion, please think of us in Tibet. We are living a life of hell on earth,” one Tibetan caller told RFA’s Tibetan service after a 27-year-old father of two perished in a self-immolation protest at the Dokar monastery compound near Tsoe (in Chinese, Hezuo) county in Gansu province on Saturday.
Sources inside Tibet said security forces have severed communications with the monastery and interrogated monks there following the latest self-immolation, the 54th since a wave of burnings began in February 2009 to protest Chinese rule and demand the return of Tibet’s exiled leader the Dalai Lama.
“Several Tibetans and police have arrived at the monastery. The police were seeking the monk who first knew about the self immolation. The monks were told that they cannot send information and photos to outside sources,” one source said.
“Many elders from the Tibetan community arrived at the monastery and appealed to the authorities not to blame the monastery and that the monks had nothing to do with the self-immolation,” the source said.
According to the sources, Chinese authorities targeted Dokar monastery because monks there and local Tibetans in Tsoe had staged massive protests against Chinese rule in 2008 followed by a massive security crackdown.
“Since then, the Chinese working committee was stationed at the monastery and were running re-education programs,” another source said.
The Tibetan caller told RFA that the latest self-immolation protester, identified as Sangay Gyatso, had been speaking up on freedom for Tibetans and the possible return of the Dalai Lama, who fled to exile in India in 1959 amid a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.
“The Chinese are bullying the small Tibetan population and taking over our land,” said the caller, referring to the Tsoe area, where the administrative center of the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southern Gansu is located.
“This needs to be stopped. This is an appeal from us, the small people. Please have pity on us,” the caller said.
Sangay Gyatso was from Jero village, just a mile from Dokar monastery, situated about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Tsoe town center. RFA received grisly photographs of Sangay Gyatso’s charred body.
His death is the third from Tibetan self-immolation protests challenging Chinese rule over the past week, bringing to 54 the total number of burnings since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.
Most of the burnings have occurred in Tibetan-populated areas of the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu.
The three self-immolations came despite an appeal by more than 400 Tibetan exiles from 26 countries to end the burning protests.
The exiles had met in the Indian hill-town of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile, and expressed “grave concern” over the burnings and urged Tibetans living under Chinese rule not to take “drastic actions.”
“Tibet is a thinly populated country, and in the present situation losing even one life is a great loss for the Tibetan people,” said a resolution adopted by the delegates to the four-day gathering, the largest meeting of its kind in four years. “Please preserve your lives in the future,” it said.
Similar expressions of concern from exile figures and from the Dalai Lama himself over the burnings have gone largely unheeded in the past.
The Central Tibetan Administration, Tibet’s government-in-exile, held a mass prayer service at the main temple in Dharamsala on Friday “to mourn and express solidarity with all those Tibetans who have self-immolated for the cause of Tibet,” according to the CTA website.
“Thousands of Tibetans, including the entire officials of the CTA attended the prayer service,” it said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.